On the trail: Hassan campaign could benefit from infrastructure deal

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    Governor Maggie Hassan speaks at the "Monitor" editorial board. GEOFF FORESTER

For the Monitor
Published: 7/30/2021 10:36:06 AM

The clearing of a major hurdle for the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package backed by a bipartisan group of senators could pay campaign dividends down the road for Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan as she runs for reelection next year.

The U.S. Senate voted 67-32 on Wednesday to advance the measure, with 17 Republicans – including longtime Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell – supporting the bipartisan deal. The 67 votes was seven more than needed to avoid a legislative filibuster that would have scuttled the agreement.

Hassan, who was part of a bipartisan group of more than 20 senators who worked on the package, touted the initial victory.

“This bipartisan investment in our country’s infrastructure will help create good-paying jobs and grow our economy – all without raising taxes,” Hassan said. “As we recover from the pandemic, this bill will help fix America’s roads, bridges, and highways while also building the infrastructure of a modern economy.”

And Hassan emphasized that “this package reflects the priorities that I hear about from Granite Staters every day,” which she said included funding for clean drinking water, broadband, strengthening cybersecurity, protecting Seacoast communities, public transit and passenger rail options, and creating manufacturing and clean energy jobs.

But the last line of the senator’s statement was the most telling. She noted that the Senate vote to advance the package “is a reminder that we can continue to make bipartisan progress by working together to find common ground on the challenges facing our country.”

When then-Gov. Hassan ran for the Senate in 2016 – and as she seeks a second six-year term in the 2022 elections – Hassan has repeatedly spotlighted her ability to reach across the aisle to negotiate with Republicans.

“The biggest strength that our campaign has is Sen. Hassan’s record of working across party lines and delivering for the people of New Hampshire,” 2022 Hassan reelection campaign manager Aaron Jacobs told the Monitor a month ago.

Wayne Lesperance, a veteran New Hampshire based political scientist, noted that “the senator has charted a path that’s focused on pragmatism and bipartisanship. Any challenger from the Republican Party is going to need to get independent voters, moderate voters, to support them, and this is a strategy basically to prevent that from happen.”

Lesperance, vice president of academic affairs at New England College, said “I think we’re going to hear a lot about the infrastructure bill as an example of the success that is possible when people are willing to cross the aisle.”

If the bipartisan infrastructure deal is eventually passed by both the Senate and House of Representatives and signed into law by President Joe Biden, Lesperance highlighted that Hassan and her campaign are “going to have a nice crowning achievement to point to.”

Trump would ‘like to see’ Sununu Senate bid

It was far from an official endorsement, but former President Donald Trump says he’d like to see Republican Gov. Chris Sununu challenge Hassan in what would be one of the top Senate battles in the 2022 midterms and a key contest that could decide which party controls the chamber’s majority.

“I’d like to see him – look, I’d like to see him run,” the former president said on Monday when asked by conservative talk radio host Howie Carr during an appearance on “The Howie Carr Show” if Sununu should launch a Senate campaign.

“I think he would poll the highest,” Trump said moments later, in discussing how Sununu would match up against Hassan compared to the other possible candidates.

The governor’s been the recipient of a full court press by national Republicans – all the way up to longtime Senate GOP leader Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and National Republican Senatorial Committee chair Sen. Rick Scott of Florida – hoping to convince Sununu to take on Hassan.

Sununu’s been saying for a couple of months that a decision – on whether to challenge Hassan, run for reelection, or not run for anything at all in 2022 – wouldn’t come this summer. And in a recent interview, he said “it really could be until the winter.”

Sununu corrects record with Trump

Trump, in his appearance on Monday with Howie Carr, repeated unsubstantiated claims that there was widespread voter fraud in New Hampshire and other states during the 2020 presidential election.

“I think we did really well in New Hampshire. I think that was one of the states, that was another one that was, something went wrong,” he charged. “They found out tremendous amounts of corruption in that election in the area that you know so well.”

It appears Trump was referring to the forensic audit of a state representatives race last November in Windham, which was conducted after a recount in the razor-thin margin contest discovered that four long-serving optical scanning machines that were used on Election Day shorted four GOP candidates in the race between 297 and 303 votes, with a Democratic candidate credited with 99 more votes than were cast.

“Congratulations to the great Patriots of Windham, New Hampshire for their incredible fight to seek out the truth on the massive Election Fraud which took place in New Hampshire and the 2020 Presidential Election,” Trump wrote in May before the audit took place.

Trump, who lost New Hampshire by seven points to now-President Joe Biden, continues to repeatedly claim, without offering concrete evidence, that the November presidential election was “stolen.”

The audit discovered that the vote discrepancy between the Election Day and recount results was caused by improperly machine-folded absentee ballots. The folds in about 400 absentee ballots were miscounted as votes, according to the audit.

“The former president has been misinformed,” Sununu said in a statement on Tuesday, following Trump’s radio interview.

“The state did a hand recount for every precinct where there was a request and every result across the state was verified. There has been absolutely no evidence of fraud or corruption in our elections — which is proof NH’s system remains the gold standard for election integrity,” the governor emphasized.

Sununu also pushed back against Trump following the former president’s statement in May, saying that “a discrepancy of 300 votes out of over 800,000 cast does not constitute ‘massive election fraud.’ ”

New Hampshire-based Republican strategist Dave Carney told the Monitor that accurate elections are “a massive point of pride for the state and every town clerk and every supervisor of the checklist, the secretary of state and anybody who cares about New Hampshire elections. It’s something that needs to be corrected when people are misinformed.”

“There were lots of headlines in news stories – mostly out of state – about what was going in Windham and it had nothing to do with voter fraud. If anybody else brought it up, the governor would make the same kind of statement,” Carney said. “It would be like someone dissing the Old Man on the Mountain or the dissing the First-in-the-Nation primary.”

Longtime New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Raymond Buckley used the Trump endorsement to blast Sununu.

“Chris Sununu should be embarrassed to receive such a toxic endorsement from Donald Trump. While backing Sununu’s potential Senate candidacy, Trump profoundly insulted the integrity of our elections and our state’s proud tradition of democracy,” Buckley wrote in a statement on Monday night.

Sununu didn’t comment on Trump’s suggestion that the governor should run for the Senate.

But Sununu’s one of the few GOP politicians who doesn’t have to rely on a Trump endorsement heading into the 2022 election cycle. The governor outperformed the then-president in New Hampshire by 20 points in the November elections, and Sununu’s job approval and favorable poll ratings have stayed quite strong. He stands at 63% approval and 33% disapproval in a survey released earlier this week by the University of New Hampshire. Meanwhile, Trump remains underwater in recent Granite State polls.

“Not many politicians in the country can wave around those kind of numbers,” Carney, a veteran of numerous presidential and statewide GOP campaigns, said of Sununu. “His political future is his own destiny. ... If he decides to run for the Senate, there’s no endorsement that he needs or doesn’t need to calculate into his decision.”

Poll: Majorities oppose abortion ban, ultrasounds

As Democrats continue to follow through on their vows to make Sununu pay a political price for signing a state budget that includes a ban on abortions after 24 weeks of gestation and mandatory ultrasounds for all women before pregnancy is terminated, a new poll indicates that a majority of Granite State voters find the provisions unpopular.

According to the University of New Hampshire survey, 56% oppose the abortion ban, with just a third supporting the provision in a trailer bill that was attached to the state’s new two-year budget, which Republican State House leaders touted as the most conservative in decades. There was an expected partisan gap, with the vast majority of Democrats and a plurality of independents – but just a quarter of Republicans – opposed to the ban.

By a 53%-31% margin, people questioned in the survey also opposed the mandatory ultrasounds. And while nearly nine in 10 Democrats and a plurality of independents were opposed, 55% of Republicans supported the ultrasound requirement.


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