On the Trail: Why Bernie Sanders is back in NH on Saturday

By PAUL STEINHAUSER

For the Monitor

Published: 08-25-2023 8:56 AM

Longtime progressive champion Sen. Bernie Sanders returns to the New Hampshire on Saturday, a trip that’s sure to generate plenty of political buzz ahead of next year’s presidential primaries.

Sanders will deliver a speech entitled “The Agenda America Needs” at Saint Anselm College’s New Hampshire Institute of Politics that a release from the populist independent senator highlighted will “lay out a concrete agenda which speaks to the needs of a long-neglected working class.”

“I have always believed that good public policy is good politics,” the two-time runner-up for the Democratic presidential nomination said in a statement promoting the address. “The American people are increasingly disgusted at the growing levels of income and wealth inequality in our country and the rampant corporate greed we are seeing.”

Sanders, who won the 2016 and 2020 Democratic presidential primaries in the longtime first-in-the-nation primary state, will deliver his speech at the Institute, which for over two decades has been a must-stop for White House hopefuls.

And his latest trip to New Hampshire is sparking speculation.

President Joe Biden – whose approval ratings have remained in negative territory for nearly two years – appears to be keeping his distance from New Hampshire after the Democratic National Committee approved a presidential nomination calendar change suggested by Biden which moves the Granite State from its longtime and cherished leadoff position. With the state likely to hold an unsanctioned contest to keep its first-in-the-nation position, it’s doubtful that the president will step foot in New Hampshire until after the end of the primary schedule.

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“We invited him, but he’s coming here for a reason,” New Hampshire Institute of Politics executive director Neil Levesque told the Monitor, as he discussed the Sanders speech. “I think it opens the door for a lot of other sorts of thoughts about whether or not Biden’s going to be the nominee, whether or not Biden is going to be running in next year’s presidential election.”

Sanders, 81, has repeatedly said that he’s backing Biden as the president seeks a second two-year term in the White House.

Longtime Sanders supporters in the Granite State told the Monitor that the speech is another example of the senator continuing to push the issues he has always pushed and that it’s not about another presidential run in 2024. They also suggest that the address may be an avenue for Sanders to try and “rally the troops” behind Biden’s re-election.

“Bernie Sanders has made it crystal clear that he is supporting President Biden in 2024. His visit to New Hampshire is simply to remind Granite Stater voters that President Biden has delivered on many of the issues that they value,” Joe Caiazzo, who served as the Sanders campaign’s 2020 state director in New Hampshire, said.

Sununu pushes to winnow GOP 2024 field

Gov. Chris Sununu, who for two and a half years has been a vocal GOP critic of former President Donald Trump, apparently liked what he saw at this week’s first 2024 Republican presidential nomination debate.

“Republicans saw a future of the party without Trump for the first time in 6 years, and they liked it,” Sununu wrote in a social media posting on Thursday, the day after the showdown in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, between eight Republican contenders rivaling Trump for the nomination.

And Sununu emphasized that Republicans still have a “long way to go, but these candidates will make their case, the field will get smaller, and Republicans can get back to winning races across America.”

Sununu been spotlighting all summer long that the large GOP field of roughly a dozen presidential rivals to Trump needs to winnow down by the end of the year, ahead of the first nominating contests, in order to prevent the former president – who currently enjoys a commanding lead in the latest Republican primary polls – from easily capturing the nomination.

When asked if he will try to help narrow the field, Sununu told this reporter last month that “I absolutely will… I’m never shy about what I think should happen or where I think the party should go.”

“If you’re not in the first or second debate, I think that’s probably a good sign that it’s not going to happen. So that’s probably going to be the first filter,” Sununu said. “I think as you get into the November and December timeframe, if other candidates just aren’t going anywhere still, then I have no problem having polite conversations behind the scenes — I don’t want to embarrass anybody. But I think a lot of folks will be having those conversations, by the way, not just me.”

He also emphasized that “at some point the pressure has to be brought to bear.” No candidate had the “courage” to do that in 2016, as Trump conquered a crowd field of rivals. “We took it for granted in ‘16 and tried to go around Trump.”

The governor – who seriously flirted with his own White House run for months before announcing in early June that he wouldn’t launch a 2024 presidential campaign – reiterated his points this week in a New York Times opinion piece.

“Provided the field shrinks by Iowa and New Hampshire, Mr. Trump loses. He will always have his die-hard base, but the majority is up for grabs,” Sununu wrote. “Candidates who seize on the opportunity and present a clear contrast to the former president will earn the votes.”

And Sununu, in his opinion piece, once again argued, “If Mr. Trump is the Republican nominee for president in 2024, Republicans will lose up and down the ballot.”

But most polling of Republican primary voters suggests that they expect the former president to secure their party’s nomination and that they’re OK with Trump as their 2024 standard bearer.

Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller, pushing back against Sununu, took to social media to write, “Hey, Governor Sununu: 2016 called and they want their op-ed back.”

Sununu has repeatedly said he’ll endorse a presidential candidate ahead of New Hampshire’s primary. But speaking with reporters a week ago as he marched in the Londonderry Old Home Day parade, the governor seemed to downplay his eventual endorsement.

“My endorsement. It will move things a little bit but not really,” Sununu said. “Endorsements are way overrated. Way, way overblown. Especially in a place like New Hampshire. These candidates have to earn it on their own.”

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