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Saturday
Dec082012

Ed Mosca - NOW OR NEVER (OR AT LEAST NOT FOR ANOTHER FOUR TO SIX YEARS)

  Looking for a secure job?  Look no further than Governor of New Hampshire.  That is, as long as you are a Democrat who is pragmatic enough to pledge to veto an income or sales tax, who can exude an air of likability while running a ruthlessly negative campaign, and who can give the appearance of governing from the middle even when you are not. 

            Jeanne Shaheen: three terms, then left by her own choice to pursue higher office.  (Yeah, I know she won without taking the pledge her last term, but that campaign against Humphrey could have made even a David Axelrod wince.)  John Lynch: four terms, then made an early (some would say premature) decision to retire to his dacha in Hopkinton because he didn’t foresee Narwhal eating over one-half of the House Republicans.  While, on the other hand, poor Craig Benson (that’s poor in the figurative sense of course) was retired after one short term spent primarily butting heads with House and Senate Republican leadership (which in part was why he was a one-and-done Governor). 

            So history suggests that, if the New Hampshire GOP wants to stop Maggie Hassan from having a long shelf life, they better pull out all the stops in 2014.

            It should be self-evident after nine elections, and a winning percentage of barely above 10 percent, that the best possible candidate is essential.  No sacrificial lambs or sentimental favorites this time.  This race, not the United States Senate race or the Congressional races, is the most consequential for the future of the New Hampshire GOP and the future of the State. 

            While it is often said that New Hampshire has a weak Governor, the Governor still wields a veto and has the power to nominate judges and senior bureaucrats.  Despite all the histrionics about a “tea-party legislature” gone wild, 2011-2012 was far from transformative.  We still have a fiscally irresponsible defined-benefit retirement plan for public-sector employees, a fiscally irrational education funding system and a plethora of destructive, rent-seeking regulations. And despite an Executive Council consisting of five Republicans, Governor Lynch succeeded in putting not just a committed Claremontista on the Supreme Court, but a committed Claremontista who made no bones about being a committed Claremontista.  The New Hampshire GOP is never going to fundamentally change the political culture of this State without holding the Governor’s office.      

            It is also essential that Republican legislative leadership understand that the race for 2014 started as soon as the vote counting ended in 2012, and act in a manner that helps, not hurts, the next GOP gubernatorial nominee.  Shaheen and Lynch were able to portray themselves as bipartisan while governing as pragmatic partisans, and look at the political success they enjoyed.  Hassan, obviously, means to follow in their footsteps.  

            This doesn’t mean that Republicans in the House and Senate should obstruct simply for the sake of obstructing.  But they must not compromise simply for the sake of compromising.  There is considerable cause for concern because Senate Republicans and, based on their selection of Gene Chandler as Minority Leader, a small majority of House Republicans are smaller-government conservatives rather than small-government conservatives. 

            Smaller-government conservatism –moderating Democrat policies rather than presenting alternatives– plays into the hands of pragmatic partisans like Shaheen, Lynch and Hassan.  They get to grow government while wearing the mantle of bipartisanship.  While their base may grouse about the pace of change being too slow, the base clearly learned its lesson from the Mark Fernald debacle in 2002.  Just ask Jackie Cilley.

            Two areas are particularly concerning:gambling and an education funding amendment.

            Any gambling bill that does not dedicate all gambling-generated revenues to reducing existing taxes is a grow-the-government bill.  If the State Senate passes a gambling bill that provides some tax relief, but also materially increases spending, we might as well just ask Hassan how long she would like to serve and then tell Bill Gardner to leave the Governor’s race off the ballot until that point.  She will be able to run as a tax-cutter while doling out cash to her special interest supporters.  No Republican support for gambling unless it is a true tax-relief measure.

            Senate Republicans, and many House Republicans, have shown a willingness to support an education funding amendment that, while giving the elected branches more control over how to divvy up the education funding pie, cedes to the Court the authority to determine the size of the pie, its ingredients, and how it gets made.  Republican support for such an inadequate amendment would allow Hassan to run as the Governor who solved Claremont, without losing the support of the teacher unions.  Republicans need to stick to the amendment that passed the Senate last session and narrowly failed in the House.

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Reader Comments (2)

The starting place in this idea, a quality one would be to consider the upcoming race for NH GOP Chairman. Not as powerful as a Governor but still an important position to advance much of the strategy discussed in this blog.

There can be two directions here without names. An ambitious, street tested conservative that will cater largely to the money base of the party and then proceed to use the office as an alignment and network agent for another run at the second congressional district. The Democratic leadership will now shield and reinforce itslf with concrete barriers at the state level filled with operatives, committees and classifed state employees that will go along with the direction. Campaigns will become more expensive making it that much harder to pick up any traction.

The other direction involves some risk and the potential for a jackpot reward. To be successful the NH GOP has to fight small partisan like battles and completely win them. Literally take a submarine sneak up behind the convoy and torpedo something big, with a big explosion and show the voters this. The other candidate doesn't have a lengthy resume but he can demonstrate some quality expereince in partisan warfare. As a part of this the candidate knows how to listen. Ideas, visions and directions are all tools that can be used to do some needed rebuilding which clearly needs to be done.

If we take on the Democratic Party head on we will lose it is that simple.
December 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteven J. Connolly
Ed:

You forget that NH Democrats had all the power they ever imagined or dreamed for in NH several years ago and what did they do?

Yea, gutted election laws to help win this time, but, they can not help spending twice what they have.

The ability to hide what they are going to do it is their only hope.

If they are exposed and held accountable I believe NH voters will turn them out again. It will be keeping the non-resident voters stirred up that will be tough for Dems in a non-presidential year. Watch for that campaign.
December 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEd Naile

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