On the trail: GOP leaders working to keep N.H. ‘first-in-the-nation’

For the Monitor
Published: 4/30/2021 4:46:10 PM

All the drama over New Hampshire potentially losing its century-long status for holding the first in the nation presidential primary is concentrated on the Democratic side of the calendar.

And that’s the way New Hampshire GOP chair Steve Stepanek would like to keep it.

Stepanek told the Monitor that he and the other top Republican Party officials in the Granite State are not aware of any current threat to the state’s cherished primary position in the GOP presidential nominating calendar.

Stepanek, who was re-elected earlier this year to a second two-year term leading the state party, said that he and the chairs of the other four early voting states – Iowa, South Carolina, and Nevada – as well as the Republican National Committee members from the four states, held a hospitality session at the group’s spring meeting in Dallas last week.

Stepanek said that “everybody was very supportive” of the current calendar and “we haven’t heard of any rumblings, rumors, or anything of anyone else challenging that.”

Longtime RNC committee member from New Hampshire Juliana Bergeron now sits on the national party’s Rules and Bylaws Committee, which will shape the proposed presidential primary calendar for the 2024 cycle. The full RNC is expected to vote on the calendar next summer.

“We’re working hard, networking with our fellow members to make sure we don’t take anything for granted,” Stepanek said.

RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel told this reporter in January that she didn’t “foresee changes” in the current Republican nominating calendar. But she added “that’s a little too far down the road ” and that she was “not going to get ahead of the committee” in making any news.

Harris doesn’t comment on primary calendar

The early steps in determining the Democrats’ next presidential nominating process are already underway, and there’s a burgeoning intra-party battle over whether Iowa and New Hampshire should retain their positions as the first caucus state and first primary state.

Some senior party elders and leaders, as well as some Democratic National Committee members, are quietly discussing making major changes to the party’s presidential nominating calendar.

Among the ideas are pushing South Carolina and Nevada – which have much more diverse Democratic electorates than Iowa and New Hampshire – to the front of the primary and caucus calendar. Also under discussion are kicking off the process with multiple states holding contests on the same day, and phasing out the remaining caucuses in favor of primaries.

During her visit to New Hampshire last week, Vice President Kamala Harris was asked if the Granite state should continue to hold the first in the nation’s presidential primary.

“I think New Hampshire is a very important state for many reasons,” the vice president said with a slight dodge of the question.

Harris then pivoted back to the mission of her trip, to advocate on behalf of Biden’s $2.3 trillion jobs and infrastructure package that the administration is aiming to pass through Congress.

Christie calls in to Granite State conservatives

Chris Christie is once again accusing the president of lying, this time charging that Joe Biden is “not telling the truth” about the tax increases inside the sweeping spending proposal he unveiled on Wednesday in his address to a joint session of Congress.

Speaking hours before Biden’s speech, the former two-term Republican governor of New Jersey once again argued that the president isn’t telling the truth “to the American people to hide a socialist agenda.”

But this time, the unsuccessful 2016 GOP presidential candidate-turned-political analyst and pundit, didn’t make his comments on his national Sunday talk show perch on ABC News. Instead, his jabs came as he headlined the latest virtual meeting of the Right-of-Center Republicans, which is comprised of over 100 prominent conservative activists and leaders in New Hampshire.

Unlike other potential 2024 GOP White House hopefuls, Christie isn’t afraid to publicly discuss his national aspirations. Christie has said any decision regarding potentially making another White House run wouldn’t come until after the 2022 midterms.

2024 buzz surrounding both Scotts

Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, a rising name in the GOP, saw his star shine even brighter after delivering the Republican rebuttal to Biden’s address.

Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate whom political pundits view as a potential White House contender in the next presidential race, charged in his response speech Wednesday that “three months in, the actions of the president and his party are pulling us further and further apart.”

Scott’s speech grabbed rave reviews on the right – and got a thumbs-up from Stepanek.

“I’m going to be watching Sen. Scott because I think great things are before him,” he said. “We’d love to have him up here.”

The other Scott in the chamber – Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida – is going to headline a virtual New Hampshire GOP fundraiser on May 25.

Rick Scott, who pundits also consider a potential White House hopeful, earlier this year spoke to the same regular conservative meeting of New Hampshire conservatives that Christie headlined this past week. And the senator, the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, also traveled to Iowa last month, to headline a fundraiser for that state’s GOP.

Reporting by Teddy Rosenbluth was used in this story.

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