Capital Beat: Some planting seeds for N.H. Republicans to abandon Trump at polls

  • Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Windham High School, Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016, in Windham, N.H. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) Evan Vucci

Monitor staff
Published: 8/6/2016 11:57:13 PM

Republican Gordon Humphrey, a former U.S. Senator, will vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton if the presidential race looks tight in November.

Betty Tamposi, Assistant Secretary of State under George H.W. Bush, is making calls to fellow Republicans urging a vote for Clinton.

The “Never Donald Trump” movement seems to be picking up steam in New Hampshire, a week after the Republican presidential nominee made headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Trump repeatedly criticized the parents of a slain soldier. He attacked vulnerable GOP U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, before later endorsing her campaign.

He is testing New Hampshire Republicans’ tepid support.

Trump “makes it harder and harder every day,” said former House Speaker Donna Sytek.

“I am still supporting him, but I am aggravated,” said Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, a Wolfeboro Republican. “We say in sports, or in politics, eliminate unforced errors. He’s not doing that unfortunately.”

The question becomes, what will Republicans do on Election Day?

No doubt many here will back him. Trump won more than a third of the state primary vote. And Ayotte and other elected state leaders continue to offer the businessman their vote.

But come November, some Republicans are already planning to leave the presidential bubble blank, or fill in the one next to Clinton’s name.

That’s what Tamposi is hearing.

“Based on conversations that I have had, we’re going to see some real ticket splitting in New Hampshire among Republicans,” she said. “They are angry that Trump has co-opted the party and is espousing a candidacy that is full of racism and misogyny.”

But few Republicans in the state are willing to go on the record about their true feelings. The chatter is happening largely in private, for fear of retribution from Trump or his allies. Tamposi declined to list anyone by name.

Humphrey, for his part, is urging the party to be more public.

“I have been trying to encourage the Republican leadership to come out of hiding and to denounce Trump and to demand that he vacate the nomination,” Humphrey said. “I am absolutely aghast at the lack of leadership. The party has utterly been adrift for the last two months, without a single prominent leader willing to stand up to Trump.”

Trump and Clinton are both unpopular among Granite State voters and have negative favorability ratings, polls show. But Clinton leads Trump in the state by eight percentage points, according to Real Clear Politics’ polling average.

Many state Republicans, even those frustrated with Trump, agree that Clinton can’t be president.

“All of us want to see Hillary defeated,” Bradley said.

But for that to happen in New Hampshire, Trump will have to stop making it so tricky for mainstream Republicans to back him. If enough jump ship, it could tilt what is already expected to be a tight race.

Given the boot

Americans for Prosperity pledge signers were not welcomed at the State House this year.

Republican Rep. Ken Weyler reserved a room at the Legislative Office Building a month ago for the organization’s Aug. 3 signing event. But when House Speaker Shawn Jasper learned about it, he pulled the plug, which forced the group to move across the street to the Barley House.

“That is really a political event and we really don’t give out rooms for political events,” said Jasper, a Hudson Republican.

AFP is a conservative advocacy organization founded by the Koch brothers. The state chapter has ruffled Republicans’ feathers this year for targeting GOP representatives and senators over their votes on Medicaid expansion and Right-to-Work.

“It really is not appropriate for a group that is targeting legislators to be meeting in the legislative building,” Jasper said.

Weyler said he was told the LOB room was unavailable for the pledge signing because the carpets were being cleaned. But he could read between the lines. “Unofficially?” he said. “They don’t like AFP targeting some members of leadership.”

More than 200 state office seekers signed the AFP pledge this year and celebrated in the Barley House basement last Tuesday. The AFP pledge calls for lawmakers to oppose all tax increases, pass Right-to-Work legislation and fight against expanded Medicaid. Jasper cast a deciding vote in the House this year that helped the healthcare program forward.

No list

Kelly Ayotte’s camp toted a cardboard cutout of Maggie Hassan around the state last week to publicize its point that the governor skips out on work to campaign for U.S. Senate.

The public only knows how many days Hassan spends out of state campaigning because she tells us, by sending a letter to the press detailing political travel each month. Ayotte’s campaign has launched many an attack using that letters’ information. Yet, the U.S. Senator has been unwilling to provide a similar log of campaign events she attends out of state or in Washington, despite multiple requests from the Monitor.

Ayotte’s campaign did offer this statement: “Unlike Governor Hassan, Kelly maintains a robust public schedule that includes town hall meetings, public forums, and regular opportunities for the voters to speak directly with her, and she will continue to do so throughout the campaign.”

Pot money

Growing state revenue on marijuana money. That’s the plan Democrat gubernatorial candidate Steve Marchand outlined for the Monitor last week – legalizing and taxing marijuana to pay for state services.

But if Marchand’s been paying attention to New Hampshire news over the last few years, he should know that crafting a state budget on a controversial policy plan hasn’t proven so successful.

Gov. Maggie Hassan is still hammered by Republicans for counting on casino money in her first budget proposal. When the gambling bill went up in smoke in the House, so did the roughly $80 million in state revenue Hassan had banked on.

While a WMUR Granite State Poll shows a majority of residents approve legalizing marijuana, the policy has a shaky track record in the Legislature.

The state Senate has never approved a bill to decriminalize marijuana, let alone legalize and tax it. Even when the state did authorize medical marijuana in 2013, it took three years before the product was actually available to people who qualify. If Marchand did sign a bill in his first term to legalize and tax marijuana, the revenue likely wouldn’t come into the state for years.

Another Round

Rep. Laurie Sanborn plans to run for House Speaker, again. The Bedford Republican launched a campaign in 2014, but dropped out before the contest citing her husband, Sen. Andy Sanborn’s health issues. Over the last term, Sanborn has tried to rally Republicans over who are opposed by Jasper. She led the charge this year against Medicaid expansion in the House.

Her candidacy depends on whether Republicans can keep control of the 400-member House. Jasper is also seeking another term to lead the party’s representatives. Penacook Rep. Steve Shurtleff plans to run for the Democrats.

Cite your sources

Al Baldasaro is wary of Walid Shoebat.

The Londonderry Republican, and longtime Trump supporter, tweeted a link to Shoebat’s website last week that claims Khizir Khan is a “Muslim Brotherhood” agent who wants to “advance Sharia law” in the U.S.

Khan, father of slain Muslim-American U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, has been repeatedly attacked by Trump. Baldasaro joined in online, but then pulled back.

“After reading info on Walid Shoebat who has been on national television, I am not sure about his credibility,” Baldasaro tweeted Monday. According to his website, Shoebat was a “radicalized Muslim willing to die for the cause of Jihad” until he “converted to Christianity in 1994.”

While Baldasaro swore off Shoebat, he hasn’t backed off criticism of Khan, who he continued to say used his slain son as a “political pawn.”

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307, or

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