Cockburn has left the snow-dusted streets of the Capitol to see even more of the white stuff up in New Hampshire ahead of Tuesday’s primary. It was a balmy 17 degrees this morning, tanning weather compared to the previous contest in Iowa. And the question on everyone’s lips up here: is Nikki Haley meeting more journalists than voters?
Cockburn found a strange scene as he pulled up at Robie’s Country Store in Hooksett Thursday: sure enough, there Haley was, stood outside giving a TV interview alongside her biggest endorser, Governor Chris Sununu, ten minutes ahead of the scheduled start time. After finding parking, Cockburn attempted to enter the store, as Haley and Sununu had just done. But the entrance was blocked by people trying get in: was demand on the ground for Haley in the Granite State really so high? Should we expect an upset that will change the Republican race?
Those questions were answered as soon as Cockburn managed to sidle into the store: it was full alright… of reporters and cameramen, with bulky equipment. There were a smattering of voters in attendance, sitting down or pressed against the walls — but to Cockburn’s eye, it was the media occupying most of the space.
Haley spent all of ten minutes in the store — the schedule said she’d be there an hour — before heading out. “Are you scared of Donald Trump?” a reporter asked her on the way out. “Are you kidding me?” she slyly responded.
Sununu stayed around for a little longer than his candidate of choice, shaking hands with his state’s constituents. He was wearing a “Ski NH” quarterzip — so Cockburn asked him whether any of the presidential hopefuls had hit the slopes in his state. Sununu said that he wasn’t aware that any had — “I don’t know if I could see Donald Trump on a snowboard although I’d love to give him a good push…”
It was a similar story in Amherst this morning at Mary Ann’s Diner, where Cockburn arrived twenty minutes early. The raised area overlooking the front of the restaurant was crammed full of TV cameras; News Nation’s Leland Vittert, CNN’s David Chalian and Newsmax’s Mark Halperin were loitering.
“There are empty tables and I have her just about to arrive,” a Haley staffer said, as other acolytes worked to move diners from the back of the restaurant to the front, to compose a fuller shot for the cameras. Haley breezed in and did the rounds, taking time to speak to every diner, fielding questions on foreign policy, January 6 and her VP pick. She was escorted around by a female aide dressed almost exactly like her, who’d brought in coffee from a more upmarket café in Manchester.
While the media and locals were waiting, the Daily Mail decided to resurface two stories from South Carolina at the turn of the last decade: two men, a consultant and a lobbyist, signed sworn affidavits asserting that Haley had slept with them. “Multiple GOP insiders told DailyMail.com that they were intimately aware of Haley’s infidelity as a South Carolina lawmaker — including tales of steamy liaisons in the back of her Cadillac SUV, ‘canoodling’ in her lovers’ laps at bars and nights spent together in a Columbia, South Carolina duplex,” the tabloid breathlessly reported.
Naturally Cockburn was curious about whether Haley or her team had seen the story or had a response. He asked a young male staffer who was part of her entourage — who said he hadn’t. As Cockburn watched Haley and Sununu give an interview to News Nation, an even younger male staffer approached him at the doorway.
“Which outlet are you with?” he asked.
“The Spectator,” Cockburn replied.
“Excuse me? What’s out?”
“Look — your colleagues are out there.”
Cockburn looked out of the restaurant door and saw a throng of photographers and TV cameras, waiting for Haley to emerge. He then looked back around the restaurant, and observed that several reporters were still very much inside, speaking to New Hampshire locals. He decided to live free rather than die at the hands of a neocon teenager — and headed off into the snow.
Roe country for old men
The campaign consultant wars are still raging as Politico published a takedown of the Ron DeSantis campaign as the “worst in history” by Curt Anderson and Alex Castellanos, who founded OnMessage Inc. and Purple Strategies, respectively.
The article seeks to demolish the idea that DeSantis was just a victim of Trump, noting that the campaign failed to have a coherent strategy, outsourced to its PAC a nationwide grassroots effort that seemingly never materialized and burned through cash with no return on investment. Axiom’s Rob Phillips responded, “OnMessage spends more time parading as experts on Sunday shows than on winning campaigns. Axiom Strategies had more victories in the last six months than OnMessage has had in the last six years. No one’s taking seriously the musings of a Bob Dole Democrat or the brains behind Bobby Jindal’s failed presidential campaign.”
Cockburn has previously written about the trials and tribulations of Axiom founder Jeff Roe, who left his role as the top advisor to Never Back Down PAC, which backs DeSantis, about a month ago. It was apparently Roe’s idea to establish a massive ground game in South Texas a half a year before Iowa, and reports suggest his firms made an unusually high percentage of incoming cash from Never Back Down. His Axiom mafia seemingly had near-full control of the DeSantis campaign. Memes floating around during the primary depicted him as the “Hamburgular,” jetting from losing campaign to losing campaign with a bag of money in tow.
However, a GOP consultant told Cockburn that Anderson shading Roe is like “asking the new Polish bakery which crime family they prefer: Gambino or Lucchese? Both will rob you blind, break your legs and be self righteous about it. But one has a Bob Dole Democrat (whatever that means).”
Pro-lifers are braver than the US Marines
Beware: anti-abortionists imminent! Cockburn hears from his military sources that the US Marine barracks sent out a force protection advisory to all hands ahead of this weekend’s March for Life in DC, to warn of a potential terror threat. It’s worth noting that no such advisory was sent out ahead of the pro-Palestine protests where activists broke the White House gate. Clearly black bloc-wearing Hamas fans don’t pose as much of a risk as Catholic schoolgirls.
Smith survives thanks to McCarthy
One of the biggest beneficiaries of the ouster of Speaker Kevin McCarthy may paradoxically be one of his top allies in Congress: Jason Smith, the chair of the Ways and Means Committee.
Last week, Cockburn heard that several of Smith’s committee members are growing increasingly frustrated with how he is not focusing his tax policy committee on… tax policy, and is instead chasing headlines by joining the impeachment inquiry of Hunter Biden — which the committee does have jurisdiction to do.
Now, Cockburn understands that the frustration had reached such a fever pitch that it was Smith, not McCarthy, whose job had been in danger last year. Several committee members had been planning to outright oust Smith as chair, but Matt Gaetz and co decided to hijack the legislative calendar and shiv McCarthy instead…