On the trail: Pence trip kicks off unofficial start of 2024 race in NH

  • Vice President Mike Pence waves after addressing the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) Elise Amendola

For the Monitor
Published: 5/28/2021 3:07:18 PM

Former Vice President Mike Pence is headed to New Hampshire next week signaling the unofficial start to the 2024 presidential race.

The former vice president will headline the Hillsborough County GOP’s annual Lincoln Reagan awards and fundraising dinner on Thursday in Manchester.

Besides sparking further speculation that Pence will eventually launch a bid for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, it’s the first in-person visit by any of the potential GOP White House hopefuls in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state.

Pence will give the keynote address at the dinner, which will be held at the Armory at the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Manchester, long a familiar venue for presidential contenders.

Pence, who’s close to Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, is likely to make other stops during his Granite State swing.

“We are very excited to have the vice president as our keynote speaker,” said Republican National Committee member and Hillsborough County GOP Chair Chris Ager. Landing Pence as their headliner was a major fundraising coup for the Hillsborough GOP.

New Hampshire Institute of Politics executive director Neil Levesque said that visit by Pence shows the power of the Granite State to attract top political figures.

“New Hampshire and our campaign season for 2024 is now open for business,” Levesque said. “Having a major figure such as former Vice President Pence coming to the state is proof positive of the strength of our first-in-the-nation status”.

Levesque hinted at the return of the institute’s Politics and Eggs speaking series – their signature event is a must stop in the Granite State for potential and actual presidential candidates – noting that it’s “being booked as of now.”

The trip to New Hampshire is Pence’s second this year to one of the early voting states in the presidential primary calendar. Last month, he traveled to South Carolina, the state that votes third in the GOP’s nominating calendar and holds the first southern contest in the presidential primaries, to give his first address since the end of the Trump administration on Jan. 20.

Scott helps out NH GOP

Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who political pundits also consider a potential 2024 GOP presidential hopeful, was the main attraction Tuesday on a New Hampshire GOP virtual fundraiser.

Scott – the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is the re-election arm of the Senate GOP – pointed to the likelihood of a very challenging re-election in next year’s midterms for Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, saying that New Hampshire “could be the deciding vote whether we have a Republican Senate or not” in 2023.

The senator didn’t bring up any of his own plans for launching a presidential campaign in 2024.

It was the second time this year that Scott, Florida’s former two-term governor, headlined a virtual event in New Hampshire. He also headlined a GOP gathering and fundraiser at the beginning of April in Iowa, whose caucuses kick off the presidential nominating calendar.

Nevada makes primary move

A bill in Nevada that would challenge New Hampshire’s century old tradition of holding the first presidential primary is moving closer to becoming a law.

Assembly Bill 126 would change the Silver State’s first-in-the west presidential caucus to a primary and move the date of the quadrennial contest up the first Tuesday in February. The bill, which passed a second committee earlier this week, was proposed by Nevada Democrats and is expected to receive bipartisan support. It needs to be approved by the full state Senate and state Assembly by May 31, when the Nevada legislative session ends.

The bill comes after former longtime Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, who served for eight years as Senate majority leader, starting making waves in December as he urged that Nevada leapfrog to the start of the nominating calendar.

Reid, who remains very influential in the national Democratic Party, was instrumental in moving Nevada’s caucuses in 2008 from an afterthought to third position in the Democratic presidential nominating calendar.

The knock against Iowa and New Hampshire for years has been that the states are too White, lack any major urban areas, and aren’t representative of a Democratic Party that’s become increasingly diverse over the past several decades. Nevada and South Carolina are much more diverse and have larger metropolitan areas than either Iowa or New Hampshire.

If Nevada’s bill passes through the legislature and is signed into law by Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak, which is expected, it would likely force longtime New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner to move the date of the Granite State’s presidential primary up in the calendar. As dictated by  state law, New Hampshire must hold its primary “7 days or more immediately preceding the date on which any other state shall hold a similar election.”

Nevada’s potential move could force Gardner to move New Hampshire’s contest to late January, which would put the Granite State in violation of the rules set by both the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee, which may trigger sanctions against New Hampshire.

Longtime New Hampshire Democratic Party chair Ray Buckley said the state will deal with the threat from Nevada just like it has defended against other past challenges. 

“We will continue to work hard to ensure New Hampshire retains its first-in-the-nation status, and we’re confident we will succeed,” Buckley said. “The level of engagement involved in the electorate here is significantly different than anywhere else, and I think that is one of the arguments why New Hampshire should remain first.”




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