On the trail: Tulsi Gabbard returning to New Hampshire

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    Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, attends Variety's third annual "Salute to Service" celebration at Cipriani 25 Broadway on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019, in New York. (Photo by Jason Mendez/Invision/AP) AP PHOTO

For the Monitor
Published: 10/15/2022 4:44:33 PM

Much has changed for Tulsi Gabbard since she was a regular visitor in New Hampshire in 2019 and 2020.

The then-four-term U.S. Rep. from Hawaii and former vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee was running a longshot campaign for her party’s presidential nomination.

Fast forward two-and-a-half years and the now-former congresswoman is returning to the Granite State just days after announcing that she was leaving the Democratic Party because it’s being “driven by cowardly wokeness.”

“I can no longer remain in today’s Democratic Party that is now under the complete control of an elitist cabal of warmongers driven by cowardly wokeness, who divide us by racializing every issue & stoke anti-white racism,” Gabbard argued in a video statement on Tuesday.

Gabbard, the first Hindu member of Congress, spent much of her time campaigning in New Hampshire during her White House bid. But Gabbard, who was known for her independent streak, finished a distant seventh in the Democratic presidential primary and dropped her bid a month later, in March of 2020.

Now she’s returning to New Hampshire to campaign with former Army Gen. Don Bolduc, the conservative outsider who last month captured the Republican nomination and is now challenging former governor and first-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan in next month’s election. Gabbard is expected to campaign with Bolduc in Brentwood, Laconia, and North Conway on Sunday and Monday.

“We don’t agree on every issue, but I am honored to have the support of Tulsi Gabbard, who shares my view that the status quo is broken, and we need a change of direction,” Bolduc said in a statement.

Bolduc, who was once considered a long shot candidate, is making his second straight run for the Senate this time as the GOP nominee.

“Tulsi is a fellow change agent and independent-minded outsider willing to speak truth to power,” Bolduc said. And he vowed “to spend every day between now and election day building a wide coalition of supporters that includes Republicans, independents and even disaffected Democrats who know that Senator Hassan is a career politician and must be retired.”

Gabbard, who served as a captain in the Hawaii National Guard and who was deployed in the war in Iraq from 2004-2005, had become over the past year and a half a vocal Democratic critic of President Joe Biden. She argued that the president had escalated tensions with Russia, and that his administration doesn’t care “about the American people.”

The New Hampshire Democratic Party took no time criticizing Gabbard, a former party ally. 

“Tulsi Gabbard is a Vladimir Putin apologist who has pushed conspiracy theories and stood with dangerous tyrants over the United States,” the party charged in a statement on Wednesday. 

Scott Spradling, a New Hampshire based media and communications consultant who served for years as WMUR’s political director, reporter, and anchor, noted that Gabbard’s visit “certainly brings some national attention” to the Bolduc campaign. “But it also brings some inherent risk, because Tulsi is a tell-it-like-it-is kind of a person, and will do so.”

“A visit like this is potentially creating some space in the conversation for truly independent voices. In a two-party world, Tulsi is straddling the line aggressively,” Spradling said. But he added that the trip might also be “a spotlight search attempt by someone who didn’t perform well in New Hampshire in the Democratic primary.”

Hassan and Bolduc to face-off on Tuesday

Hassan and Bolduc are scheduled to share the same stage on Tuesday a 9 a.m. in North Conway, as they square off in the first of three debates ahead of the Nov. 8 election.

Hassan, who’s been heavily targeted by Republicans hoping to flip the blue Senate seat red as they try to win back the chamber’s majority, holds a single-digit lead over Bolduc in an average of the latest public opinion polls in the race.

Bolduc, who’s made some controversial comments since winning the GOP nomination, “needs to avoid making colossal errors at the podium. He needs to not be drawn into reflecting on or defending some of the verbal gaffes that he as made in the past,” Spradling noted. “If he’s explaining, he’s losing.”

As for Hassan, Spradling said she should have two main goals. “One – she’s got to convince voters that she’s the independent voice that her campaign ads claim her to be. She has to show examples and put some distance between herself and the Biden administration.”

And secondly, he said that Hassan “has to play defense against being blamed for record inflation and the economy.”

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