High paid gambling lobbyists are in the process of spreading the rumor that they already have the votes to pass SB152 through the New Hampshire House. At least, that's what I've heard from usually reliable sources on the travels this morning. The governor is engaged in a full court press with first-term Democrats, giving them personal attention, I'm told.
I spent more than a little time disabusing these sources of that contention. Gambling lobbyists, if they are spreading such pablum, are simply engaging in an exercise in self-delusion. As hard as the governor is working to twist freshman Reps, I've learned that powerful House Democrats, including committee chairs (no names please) are educating their fellow Reps as to just how bad a plan SB152 is.
As I alluded to a few days ago, my numbers of a defeat in the 50-60 vote range have not changed. I have spent more time refining the numbers, and if anything, I conclude that the Senate plan is losing rather than gaining steam. For example, just a few hours ago I spoke with a first-term Democrat who was leaning for the plan and is now totally undecided. I've placed this Rep among the 86 in my survey. I've also spoken with two Republicans who have always voted for gambling in the past but will not vote for the Senate plan.
Here's the methodology for my numbers.
I begin with the WMUR poll of Reps which shows 120 opposed to SB152 and 101 in favor.
I've reviewed all Reps and have removed eight from the 101. In other words, for whatever reason, I've decided that eight of those in favor are really not in favor. But it's worse than that; I've decided that six of the so-called yes votes are really no votes.
Thus, here's my new starting point. 120 plus 6 = 126 no.
101 minus 8 = 93 yes.
The WMUR poll then gives us three categories of Reps: a small number refusing to say how they will vote; a larger number who claim to be undecided; and an even larger number who have not responded to the survey.
After looking at past votes on gambling and using conversations I've had with individual members, I am willing to "push" some (again, no names please) into the yes or no category. The 86 I leave as unknown are mostly first-year Reps whom I do not know; there's a group of about 20 Reps who I believe truly are undecided and will name a few names here.
First, of those who will not say how they will vote, I have three I am virtually sure will vote no and only one I (David Cote, of Nashua) on the yes side.
Of the so-called undecided, I'm willing to "push" 18 to the no side and 11 to the yes side.
Of those who have not responded (either because they want to appear not to be acting in haste or because they don't want to offend advocates on one side or the other), I can "push" 36 to the no side and 23 to the yes side.
Thus 126 + 3 + 18 +36 = 183 no
93 + 1+ 11+ 23 = 128 yes
That's a 55 vote margin
Of the 86 I have decided not to "push", I probably could place half of them in one of the two columns, but I deliberately want this exercise to be conservative. If forced to "push" them, half would go to the yes column and half to the no column.
Thus, I remain confident that my 55 vote margin will be the final result, but even if I'm off by 20-25 votes, I still see virtually no chance of this bill passing the House.
I repeat--the more you hear about this, the worse it looks.
As promised, here are some of my truly "undecided" from those who claim to be undecided or have not chosen to respond, the latter in most cases. Let's start with two on the Finance Committee since they will have the initial vote before it reaches the House floor. Democrat Bill Hatch, of Gorham, has voted both for and against gambling in the past. He told a subcommittee the other day that he's actually visited Millenium's casino in Vegas. My sense is he would like to vote for a gambling play, but this one? I don't know; that's why I have him as undecided.
So too with Democrat Dan Eaton; he's voted against gambling in the past, but I would not dare put him in either camp since I think he'd like to please the governor yet not alienate certain powerful House Dems.
I have Majority Leader Steve Shurtleff in the truly undecided camp as well; my guess is doesn't know how he'll vote as of today. So too with Deputy Speaker Nadia Kaen who has voted on both sides on past gambling questions. Jackie Cali-Pitts, of Portsmouth, is unknown as are the Republican sisters from Salem, Marlinda and Bianca Garcia. If forced to place them, I'd go with Pitts in the yes column and the Garcias as no, but this is an exercise I've chosen not to engage in for the numbers noted above.
Want a few more?
I've got my seatmate Lisa Whittemore, the only Democrat from Londonderry, as undecided. If I had to push her one way or the other, it would be to the no side; she can expect tremendous pressure (but not from me) in the next few weeks.
I have Republicans Al Baldasaro and Jack Flanagan as undecided; they'd like to vote for gambling, but I trust they would not like to help a Democratic governor spend more money. Never underestimate the unwillingness of Republicans, who voted for gambling last year, to vote against it this year so as not to grow government.
Most Manchester Democrats will vote yes, even those who claim to be undecided, but Nick Levasseur should remain in the undecided column as should Manchester Republican Dick Marston. Manchester Republicans Andy Martel and Larry Gagne are listed on the yes side, but I'm not so sure they can stomach such a truly bad bill as this one. After all, they are not stupid and might listen to their party.
I could list a few more, but I don't want to break any confidences, so I'll end it with a firm conviction that this bill has very little (never say never!) chance of passing and will lose by not just a little but something in the 50-60 range, Governor Hassan's best efforts notwithstanding.
This snake oil just can't be sold!
That's 186 no,
86 unknown or undecided
3 seats vacant
I'll refine these numbers if anyone mentioned here personally tells me otherwise.
If you question whether I am deliberately skewing the numbers because I personally oppose SB152, you probably should not be reading this. You should realize that I have a long history of being able to separate what I hope will happen from what the numbers tell me will happen. I'm not always right (I nailed all 24 NH Senate seats last fall, but missed several U.S. Senate races), but I try to avoid a personal bias.