On the trail: Keeping the peace in the N.H. GOP

  • A protester holds an "Impeach Liz Cheney" sign during a rally against U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021, outside the Wyoming State Capitol in Cheyenne. A nationwide fight for the GOP's future is getting fierce in Wyoming. House Republicans tried to oust congresswoman Liz Cheney from their third-ranking leadership post over her vote to impeach President Donald Trump. (Michael Cummo/The Wyoming Tribune Eagle via AP) Michael Cummo

  • President Donald Trump speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House, Sunday, March 22, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) Patrick Semansky

For the Monitor
Published: 2/6/2021 1:02:05 PM

Across the country, state Republican parties are criticizing well-known GOP politicians for not being loyal enough to former President Donald Trump.

But that infighting isn’t publicly flaring up in New Hampshire, and one likely reason is Gov. Chris Sununu’s sway over Republicans.

Conservative Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, who was overwhelmingly re-elected in November, is facing censure this month by his state’s GOP for attacking Trump’s unsuccessful efforts to overturn his defeat in the presidential election.

The Nebraska Republican State Central Committee is also targeting Sasse for decrying Trump’s encouragement of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by right wing extremists and other supporters who attempted to derail the congressional certification of President Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. Five people, including a Capitol Police officer, were killed during the insurrection.

The Wyoming GOP meets this weekend to likely censure U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney over her vote three weeks ago to impeach Trump.

Only 10 House Republicans joined all 222 Democrats in the chamber in voting to impeach the then-president; 197 House Republicans voted against impeachment.

While facing censure back home in Wyoming ‒ as well as primary challengers when she’s up for re-election next year ‒ Cheney easily beat back a move this week by Trump loyalists to remover her as the third-highest ranking Republican in Congress.

Also making headlines recently, the Arizona GOP – which is led by a Trump loyalist – censured two-term Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, who resisted calls by the then-president to overturn Biden’s razor thin victory in the state in last November’s election.

But in New Hampshire, while Republicans may not be singing “Kumbaya,” there’s at least an easing of tensions between the party’s various factions.

Republican State Committee Chair Steve Stepanek pointed to the 2020 elections, when the GOP won back majorities in the state House and Senate as well as the Executive Council.

“All the different factions worked together within the Republican Party and we were successful,” Stepanek said.

Stepanek, who was a co-chair of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign in New Hampshire and who’s currently running for another two-year term steering the NHGOP, told the Monitor that he tries to keep the focus on the Democrats.

“I just remind everybody that if we want to continue to be successful, we’ve got to continue to be in the same boat rowing in the same direction and that our anger should be directed towards the Democrats and what the Democrats and President Biden are doing to the country and how negatively that’s going impact all of us going forward,” he said.

While some Trump backers have their daggers out, State Rep. Fred Doucette of Salem, who was a New Hampshire co-chair of Trump’s 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns, is preaching unity.

“The infighting is ridiculous and we shouldn’t be consuming our own in any way, shape, or form,” he said.

Tom Rath, who comes from the moderate side of the GOP. The former state attorney general, longtime nationally known GOP consultant and veteran of numerous Republican presidential campaigns is no fan of Trump. Rath was a top adviser on the 2016 White House campaign of then-Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a very vocal Trump critic.

“I don’t sense at the moment that there’s a desire to have an internal civil war among New Hampshire Republicans over who’s loyal to Trump and who’s not,” Rath told the Monitor.

He emphasized that Sununu, who was re-elected in November to a third two-year term as governor, is a major reason for a lack of real infighting.

“Our party in the state at the moment has a very strong unifying force, and that’s Gov. Sununu,” Rath pointed out. “He overspreads the field and allows a certain degree of skirmishing to go on, but not so as to impact upon where he is, what he’s doing.”

Rath pointed to another reason – that with the state’s all Democratic four member Congressional delegation, the state GOP still has its work cut out.

“We got the Legislature and the Executive Council back but we still have these four federal seats that we haven’t been able to make a dent in,” Rath noted.

A pledge to protect N.H.’s primary

With the 2020 presidential election in the rear view mirror and the early moves in the next White House race on the horizon, the Republican Party chairs in the first four states that hold contests in the GOP presidential nominating calendar – Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada – are teaming up to protect their cherished status.

“We’re going to be working collaboratively together to protect the current status quo as far as 2024 is concerned,” Stepanek told the Monitor.

Pointing to the well-known “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” by the Americans for Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist, Stepanek said Republican politicians campaigning in New Hampshire need to pledge to protect the primary.

“We’re going to do the same thing,” Stepanek said. “As candidates come to any of the four early states, that they pledge to support all four states and there will be a pledge signing ceremony and all four state party chairs will countersign the pledge.”

Stepanek said the idea was agreed upon when all four early voting state chairs huddled in January at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting in Florida.

“We had a roundtable – all four states – and agreed to work together – we hope to have the pledge approved by all four states over the next few weeks,” Stepanek said. “We want to show that there’s unity among all four states and we want get all the candidates on record that they support the current primary calendar.”

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