On the trail: Trump boosts potential Lewandowski Senate bid

  • FILE - In this April 28, 2018 file photo, President Donald Trump, left, smiles after listening to Corey Lewandowski, right, former campaign manager for Trump's presidential campaign, make remarks at a rally at Total Sports Park in Washington, Mich. Trump is throwing his support behind his former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who is considering a run for Senate in his home state of New Hampshire. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) AP file

  • During the 2016 election, campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was seen as Donald Trump’s right-hand man. AP file

  • FILE - -In this March 15, 2016 file photo, Donald Trump's campaign manager Corey Lewandowski listens at left are Trump speaks in Palm Beach, Fla. Trump has forced out his hard-charging campaign manager, Lewandowski, in a dramatic shakeup designed to calm panicked Republican leaders and reverse one of the most tumultuous stretches of Trump's unconventional White House bid. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File) Gerald Herbert

For the Monitor
Published: 8/15/2019 5:48:34 PM

President Donald Trump wants New Hampshire Republicans to know that his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is an outstanding guy.

Lewandowski, a longtime Granite Stater who works as a consultant and lobbyist in the nation’s capital, dropped a political bomb a couple of weeks ago when he announced he was seriously considering run for the GOP U.S. Senate nomination in New Hampshire in hopes of facing off next year against two-term Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

The president emphasized Thursday morning on a popular talk radio program that if Lewandowski “ran and won, he would be a great senator.”

“I think he would be fantastic. He’s got great energy. He’s terrific on television. He’s a really good guy,” Trump emphasized in his interview on New Hampshire Today with Jack Heath.

Lewandowski, who managed Trump’s presidential campaign from its start in 2015 through the 2016 primaries and remains a close outside adviser to the president, said last week that his ability to fundraise thanks to his close relationship with the president Trump would make him the most formidable Republican to face off next year against Shaheen.

“If I decide to get into this race, I think you’ll see my fundraising prowess come to fruition very quickly,” Lewandowski said.

Apparently not revealing his cards, Trump said “I haven’t heard that he’s running yet. I know he’s considering it. If he ran, I think he’d be number one. I think he’d be hard to beat in New Hampshire.”

The president’s radio interview came hours before he returned to New Hampshire – to hold his first campaign event in the state since the eve of the 2016 election. Trump narrowly lost the crucial battleground state to Hillary Clinton in the last presidential election by less than 3,000 votes.

While energizing his base of voters is job number one for Trump during his New Hampshire stop, what could be more revealing is what he says about Lewandowski – who will be with the president at the rally at the SNHU Arena in Manchester – the state’s largest venue.

Two days before Trump’s arrival, a new poll suggested Lewandowski would be the front-runner in the race – over the three other declared or likely Republican candidates – and that the president’s support would only enhance his front-runner status.

The poll was commissioned by David Bossie, the longtime president and chairman of conservative advocacy group Citizens United who served as deputy campaign manager of Trump’s 2016 White House bid and remains close with Lewandowski.

Bossie predicted an endorsement by Trump would make Lewandowski “unbeatable” in a GOP primary and the best chance to take out Shaheen.

“We believe that a Lewandowski candidacy gives Jeanne Shaheen fits for the general election and it makes the Democratic senatorial committee have to commit to that race and spend money there when there weren’t necessarily thinking they would need to,” Bossie said.

But some Granite State Republicans don’t see it that way. Lewandowski, like Trump, has a well-known reputation as a very controversial and polarizing figure.

Former Sen. Judd Gregg – who also served as governor – made headlines a week ago by calling Lewandowski “a thug.”

Lewandowski returned fire, blasting Gregg as a part of a group of “career politicians” that damaged the country and fueled Trump’s White House victory.

Longtime New Hampshire-based Republican consultant David Carney said that a Lewandowski Senate run is “a terrible idea.”

“Corey’s a political hack,” Carney said. “I’m a political hack. Believe me, political hacks make terrible candidates.”

Lewandoski has little to offer voters besides his own political activism, which is an empty selling point, Carney said. 

“People hate politics. It is a terrible idea,” Carney said. “It will hurt the president’s re-election in New Hampshire if we get saddled with Corey because he doesn’t bring anything to the table. He’s riding on the president coattails.”

The last two Senate elections in New Hampshire have been razor-thin – with Shaheen narrowly defeating former Sen. Scott Brown in 2014 – and then Gov. Maggie Hassan defeating Ayotte by just 1,017 votes in 2016.

In 2020, national Republicans view New Hampshire as one of the few places they may be able to go on the offense as they mostly play defense to defend their 53-47 majority in the Senate.

But defeating Shaheen – a popular former governor – won’t be easy – as she’s already built a formidable campaign war chest ahead of next year’s election.

Carney and other GOP strategists say a Lewandowski candidacy could complicate matters up and down the ballot – including for popular Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who’s running next year for a third two-year term steering the state.

Another longtime Republican consultant in New Hampshire disagrees.

Mike Biundo, a top adviser for former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania in 2012 and Sen. Rand Paul and then-Ohio Gov. John Kasich in the 2016 primaries tweeted that Lewandowski “changes the dynamics, attention & energy around this Senate race,” citing both fundraising and raw energy.

A day after Bossie released his survey, the campaign of Republican candidate and retired Army Brigadier Gen. Don Bolduc released their own internal poll, which suggested Lewandowski and Bolduc are tied.

If Lewandowski does run, he said he would like to have the support of the other candidates

But neither Bolduc or former state House of Representatives Speaker Bill O’Brien, the other declared Republican candidate in the race, say they have any intention of quitting.

“No. It’s not changing my mind one bit,” Bolduc said on Monday. “I will not get out of the race.”

Sanford mulls Trump challenge

Former South Carolina governor and congressman Mark Sanford says he should decide by Labor Day if he’s going to mount a “long-shot” GOP primary bid against President Trump.

Sanford announced last month he would take around 30 days to test the waters before deciding whether to pursue the Republican presidential nomination.

“I gave myself a month and I’m running up on that deadline,” Sanford said Wednesday as he sat down for an interview with the Monitor and NHTalkradio.com in Concord.

Sanford spent his day in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state by sitting down for a few select media interviews – and meeting with Republican veterans of the state’s presidential primary. Among them were former state party former state attorney general Tom Rath, a top adviser to then-Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s 2016 presidential campaign, and former state GOP chair Fergus Cullen, one of the leaders of the “Never-Trump” movement in New Hampshire.

“People are politically aware here,” Sanford said. “More than any other state out there … this is a state where you can get a grassroots opinion real fast on a good idea, bad idea, go, no-go.”

One way or another, the aim of the longtime deficit hawk is to make the explosion of federal spending and ballooning national debt a key issue in the presidential campaign.

“One of the cornerstones to the Republican Party historically was, do we spend beyond our means?” Sanford said. “Do we believe in some level of financial sanity? And that seems to have gone out of the window of late.”

Sanford blamed the president for failing to take action against the deficit and debt.

“It’s a problem that he hasn’t used the microphone to talk about how profound this challenge is and how it’s going  to hurt every one of us if we don’t do something about it,” Sanford argued. “He’s ruled out action on the very things that drive our debt and spending. It’s irresponsible.”

Swett backs Biden

Former U.S. Rep. and ambassador Dick Swett this week endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden – the front runner right now in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Swett, who served two terms as a congressman in the early 1990’s, said Biden would be ready to serve as president on day one.

Biden’s wife, Jill Biden, will headline a house party at Swett’s Bow home on Monday at 5 p.m. It’s one of three stops Jill Biden will be making on Monday in New Hampshire.




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