by Patrick Hynes crossposted at Ankle Biting Pundits
Another New England state. Another Democratic frontrunner with all the trappings of a shoe-in campaign victory. Another liberal, anti-war insurgent who appears to be closing the gap at just the right moment.
The race for the Democratic nomination in New Hampshire’s first Congressional district is shaping up to look a lot like the Joe Lieberman-Ned Lamont primary in Connecticut from last month.
In the frontrunner role is state House Democratic Leader Jim Craig from Manchester. With an eight-year record of defying the majority GOP in the state legislature, a catalogue of state and national endorsements and the full backing to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Craig looked unbeatable only a couple of months ago.
But in recent weeks, liberals have grown restive over Craig’s incumbent-style approach to campaigning. As the Portsmouth Herald has opined, “It appears Craig has no intention of letting anyone know where he stands on any of the vital issues facing this state and country. His answers to questions are Democratic Party pabulum and appear to be consciously designed to give no hint as to where the candidate himself stands.”
And Craig’s biggest asset, his Washington, DC-based ATM machine, is becoming his biggest liability. Over the weekend, the liberal Concord Monitor lambasted the DCCC for endorsing Craig, and in the process appeared to disqualify Craig himself:
Money, money, money. Particularly at this time of the campaign, and particularly with little-known candidates, it is the lifeblood of politics. That is why it is reprehensible that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and its train of interest groups and big-name pols have given thousands of dollars to Jim Craig.
Enter the insurgent campaign of former Wes Clark volunteer Carol Shea-Porter. Despite her tremendous cash disadvantage and her caustic approach toward discussing controversial issues, Shea-Porter would appear to have the primary wind at her back a week from the primary. Shea-Porter is, of course, against the War in Iraq; she demands an immediate withdrawal of troops and wants to prosecute private firms for “war profiteering.” She also supports universal, single-payer health insurance.
While no recent, relevant polling is available, one seasoned Democratic activist and former office holder, who supports Shea-Porter, told me that the campaign’s volunteer base is growing “exponentially” every week. Moreover, although “signs don’t vote,” there are almost no visual displays of support for Craig at the grassroots level, while Shea-Porter’s signs are everywhere.
The race is important because some see Republican incumbent Jeb Bradley as vulnerable. Early polls showed him below the treasured 50% re-elect benchmark, though his numbers have improved of late. Nevertheless, Bradley is the latest target of the Left’s “Culture of Corruption” witch hunt, and the Northeast as a whole is growing increasingly hostile to President Bush, with whom Bradley is perceived to be closely aligned.
Yet to be determined is how or even whether the recent revelations of an in-district University of New Hampshire professor who espouses and teaches a conspiracy theory that the federal government had foreknowledge of and was complicit in the 9/11 terror attacks will impact the political environment.
At first blush, it might appear that such quackery would damage the conspiracy-prone Shea-Porter. But as one state pundit has pointed out, such conspiracy theories are believed by 30% of the American public, virtually all, it is safe to say, are Democrats, are motivated to vote, and find a least some of their number in New Hampshire’s first CD. What is more, the overall reaction to Prof. Woodward’s conspiracy mongering has been of the glowing “academic freedom” variety.
Shea-Porter has one more week to convince Democrat primary voters that her take-no-enemy-combatants-prisoner, Bush-Lied-People-Died anger is their best hope to pick up this targeted Congressional seat. Or is it “frontrunner” Jim Craig who must play catch-up?