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On the Trail: A December to remember on the NH campaign trail

  • kristin palpini

  • FILE - Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to examine Texas's abortion law, Sept. 29, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington. Booker announced plans to appear at a party fundraiser next month in New Hampshire, which traditionally hosts the nation's first presidential primary election. (Tom Williams/Pool via AP, File) Tom Williams

For the Monitor
Published: 11/24/2021 1:52:51 PM

A former vice president and two U.S. senators – who may have designs on running for the White House in 2024 or beyond – are making stops in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state next month.

Topping the list is Mike Pence, who will keynote a fundraising event for the New Hampshire Senate Republicans on Dec. 8 in Manchester.

The fundraiser will help bring in campaign cash for Republicans as they build resources to hold their 14-10 majority in the New Hampshire Senate in next year’s contests. Republicans, thanks in part to GOP Gov. Chris Sununu’s landslide reelection victory in 2020, won back control of both houses of the state legislature, which they had lost in the 2018 elections.

“It’s great to have former Vice President Mike Pence back in the Granite State and we’re thrilled that he is helping the NH Senate Republicans’ efforts to maintain the majority we won in a hard fought 2020 campaign,” state Senate president Chuck Morse said in a statement.

While in the Granite State, Pence will also headline a Heritage Action “Save Our Paychecks” event which targets President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda, which the group says is “hurting workers and families across the country.”

“Whether it’s at the gas pump or in the grocery store, families are seeing less in their pocketbooks at the end of the month,” Pence, in a statement promoting the Heritage Action event. “I am honored to join Heritage Action for America to stop President Biden’s radical attack on American workers.”

The former vice president joined the Heritage Foundation, one of the oldest and most influential think tanks in the conservative movement, as a distinguished visiting fellow earlier this year. Heritage Action is the organization’s political wing.

The trip will be the former vice president’s second to New Hampshire this year. Pence in June keynoted the Hillsborough County GOP’s Lincoln-Reagan Day dinner, giving a well-received speech that was punctuated numerous times by standing ovations.

Pence earlier this month made his second visit this year to Iowa, the state whose caucuses for half a century have kicked off the presidential nominating calendar. Pence also stopped this spring in South Carolina, which votes third in the GOP primary and caucus calendar, and earlier this month in Nevada, which holds the fourth contest.

The trips to the early voting presidential primary and caucus states are fueling further speculation that Pence is gearing up towards a 2024 GOP White House run as he crisscrosses the country to help fellow Republicans running in the 2022 elections.

Also coming to New Hampshire in December for his second trip this year is Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas. The conservative lawmaker will headline the Cheshire County Republican Committee’s annual holiday function and fundraiser in Keene. Cotton made a jam-packed two day swing through the state in July. He has also made stops this year in Iowa and Nevada.

Cotton, whom pundits consider a potential 2024 GOP presidential contender, told this reporter earlier this year that the 2022 midterms are “the election that’s in my eye sights” and he added that “we’ll let future elections work themselves out.”

On the liberal side, Sen. Cory Booker is headed to New Hampshire on Dec. 11 to headline a major state Democratic Party fundraising dinner.

The New Hampshire Democratic Party announced last week that the senator from New Jersey who unsuccessfully ran for his party’s 2020 presidential nomination will headline the McIntyre-Shaheen and Eleanor Roosevelt Winter Extravaganza. The gala, in Manchester, will help boost the state Democratic Party’s coffers ahead of next year’s elections, when Sen. Maggie Hassan and Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas will be running for reelection in the crucial general election battleground state.

While the announcement raised eyebrows regarding any future Booker White House run, Democratic strategists close to Booker’s orbit made it crystal clear that the senator’s return to the state that holds the first primary in the White House race is all about next year’s midterm elections and not about the 2024 presidential election.

With the Democrats hoping to hold onto their razor-thin House and Senate majorities in next year’s midterms amid a political climate and historical tailwinds that favor the GOP, Booker emphasized that “the road to protecting and expanding Democrats’ Congressional majorities runs through New Hampshire.”

“I’m looking forward to seeing some old friends, touting my colleagues’ record of delivering results for New Hampshire, and discussing the incredible progress President Joe Biden has made at building our economy back better than before,” Booker said in a statement.

Booker, who’s known as a talented orator, is no stranger to New Hampshire. He campaigned in the state on behalf of President Barack Obama and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, and has spoken a handful of times over the years at breakfasts hosted by the state’s Democratic delegation at national conventions.

The senator heavily concentrated his 2020 White House bid in New Hampshire, building up a formidable staff and focusing on the state’s tradition of retail politics. While his appearances at numerous house parties and town halls were well received in the Granite State, Booker didn’t resonate in national polling and struggled with fundraising. He ended his White House bid a month before New Hampshire’s February 2020 primary.

“Because of COVID, Cory Booker has never really been able to come back to New Hampshire,” Granite State-based Democratic consultant Jim Demers, who was a top Booker 2020 adviser, told the Monitor. “He made a lot of friends and he’s wanted to come back and spend some time with people who he met in New Hampshire. This is a really great opportunity for him to do that.”

Demers also emphasized that Booker “made really close friendships with Reps. Chris Pappas and Annie Kuster and he has a really strong relationship with Maggie Hassan in the Senate. He really did want to come back up and lend a hand to the three of them as they run for reelection in 2022. That’s a big factor in why he’s coming to headline this event.”

Democratic strategists close to Booker’s orbit say that another White House run by the senator won’t happen in 2024, but add that it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he runs for president again down the road.

House GOP reelection arm targets Kuster

With an increasing number of Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives announcing they’re retiring or running for another office in 2022, the reelection arm of the House GOP is adding 13 additional members to their so-called “Democrat Exit List.”

The expansion of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s (NRCC) list on Tuesday followed the announcements late last week by longtime Democratic Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas and G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina that they won’t seek reelection in 2022. Seventeen House Democrats are either retiring or running for another office next year, compared to 11 House Republicans.

“Every House Democrat has a choice to make over the Thanksgiving holiday: retire or lose. So far 17 Democrats have made the smart choice to quit,” NRCC chair Rep. Tom Emmer argued.

Among those added to the NRCC’s exit list is Kuster, the Hopkinton Democrat who first won election to the House in 2012.

The addition of Kuster took many politicos in New Hampshire by surprise, as the congresswoman continues to haul in impressive amounts of fundraising dollars as she actively campaigns for reelection in 2022.

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