New Hampshire votes tomorrow in the 2024 presidential primaries — and it seems no one is expecting an upset. The Spectator team dispatched to Manchester and has observed a significantly quieter scene than that of the 2020 Democratic primary contest. News coverage is scanter than expected, the bars and restaurants are empty and there is plenty of parking, even as temperatures creeped above freezing today.
The only quasi-surprise so far is that Florida governor Ron DeSantis has suspended his campaign already, although that seemed more a question of when not if, considering his poor showing in Iowa after spending more than $100 million campaigning. Former UN ambassador Nikki Haley reacted to the news during a campaign event at a seafood shack, telling supporters she wished him well and, referencing her now head-to-head battle with Trump, asserted, “may the best woman win.” DeSantis, however, endorsed the former president, who said he was “honored” to receive his backing. Trump will hold a large rally in Laconia this evening with Vivek Ramaswamy, Doug Burgum and Tim Scott.
New Hampshire is likely Haley’s only chance to prove she can compete with Trump, as she is relying on the state’s Independent voters to back her bid. Some polls have shown her within striking distance, but political consultants and commentators I’ve spoken to agree that she would be hard-pressed to come within ten points of the former president. After New Hampshire, voters will head to the polls in Nevada — where Nikki Haley has chosen to appear on the primary ballot as opposed to the state party’s separate caucus, which is how delegates will be awarded — and then South Carolina — Haley’s home state, where she is polling at about 25 percent to Trump’s 60 percent. In short, if Haley doesn’t over perform in New Hampshire, her candidacy is effectively over.
Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, Minnesota representative Dean Phillips and Marianne Williamson are pounding the pavement trying to turn out voters who are dissatisfied with President Joe Biden. Last evening, a Williamson supporter stopped us on the street to show us a photo of the spiritual advisor to Oprah with the famous civil rights activist Rosa Parks. Later on, we ran into Dean Phillips campaign surrogate Andrew Yang alongside some members of the “Dean Team.” Yang bought a round of drinks for some fellow bar patrons, but when he asked them who they were voting for, he discovered that they were convicted felons and thus had lost their ability to vote for anyone.
Most polls have Phillips trailing Biden by anywhere from thirty to forty-five points, and even if Phillips were to perform well, he would not receive any delegates because the DNC stripped New Hampshire of its status as the first primary in favor of South Carolina. It seems the plan is for Phillips to gather some momentum in New Hampshire and then pick up enough delegates to cause a brokered convention at the DNC. There is a grassroots effort, led by former state house member Jim Demers, to get Democrats to write-in President Biden’s name. A radio ad playing on a country music station urged voters to write-in Biden so that he can defeat Trump in November. It did not mention Biden’s challengers.
One thing that could be counted on in Manchester was the Double Tree hotel lobby being a hot spot for media and candidate sightings. Reporters from NBC News, CBS News, Politico, Real America’s Voice, Newsmax and more flitted in and out of the bar and restaurant area. On Monday alone we witnessed Dean Phillips taking a selfie with a supporter, a Republican candidate by the name of Peter Jedick doing laps around the bar by himself with a campaign sign and pastor Ryan Binkley demolishing a wedge salad as his staff edited campaign videos. “We’re in third place,” one member of the Binkley campaign confidently asserted to the maître d’.
On our radar
TIM SCOTT ENGAGED South Carolina senator Tim Scott proposed to his girlfriend Saturday night on Kiawah Island, just one day after he endorsed former president Donald Trump in the GOP primary.
A LEGAL AFFAIR A Cobb County judge ruled Monday that divorce proceedings for Nathan Wade, the alleged affair partner of Fulton County DA Fani Willis, should be unsealed. Willis is facing accusations of corruption for appointing Wade to lead a special investigation into Trump despite having little prosecutorial experience.
ABORTION ON TOUR Vice President Kamala Harris is traveling the country to promote the Biden administration’s agenda on abortion, including establishing a new “task force on reproductive rights.” Harris and Biden are hopeful that abortion will be a political winner for the Democrats come November.
House GOP vies for open committee seat
The latest House GOP resignation is sparking a mad scramble for a rare open seat on one of Congress’s most powerful committees.
With Bill Johnson’s early exit to helm Youngstown State University, his slot on the Energy and Commerce Committee is suddenly open, giving ambitious freshman Republicans a chance to join the committee. Energy and Commerce is usually reserved for members far more senior; in fact, it’s been well over a decade since a freshman served on the committee.
Some of the likely claimants include Michigan’s John James, who is “absolutely running for the opening,” his team tells me, as well as New York’s Brandon Williams, and potentially New Jersey’s Tom Kean. All are freshmen who won incredibly difficult elections in 2022 and can make a lot of new friends around town if they are selected to join the committee, which regulates just about everything under the sun. “If it moves, it’s energy; if it doesn’t, it’s commerce,” is a popular refrain.
The current chair, Washington’s Cathy McMorris Rodgers, has immense sway over who joins her panel, but the House’s powerful Steering Committee has the final say. That vote may happen as early as next week when Congress reconvenes. It’s also possible that the Steering Committee will take its time, allowing special elections to sort themselves out, which some think would lead to an even madder scramble to succeed Johnson.
Interestingly, some are approaching this like it’s a full-blown reelection bid. James, for example, is circulating a Fox News-heavy hype video featuring clips of him going after the Biden administration in general and transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg, a newfound Michigander, in particular. James’s case strikes me as particularly intriguing; he’s run for Senate twice in Michigan prior to his win in 2022, and he’d keep the Midwest’s numbers on the committee intact, points his team are making in their case.
“With losses like Bill Johnson this Congress and Fred Upton last Congress, we think it’s critical that this seat be filled by someone from our region and John is the right man for the job,” his spokesman Noah Sadlier told me. “He comes from a background as an auto supplier, and has already passed legislation through the House to fight the drug epidemic.”
Down to the wire
In an attempt to stem the out-of-control tide of illegal immigrants flooding the southern border, Texas governor Greg Abbott deployed National Guard soldiers who put up razor wire near Eagle Pass. A new Supreme Court ruling, however, that saw Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Amy Coney Barrett side with the liberal justices in a 5-4 decision, means federal immigration agents will be able to remove the wire.
NPR reports that Texas sued the Biden administration in October of last year over the removal of the wire, “claiming federal agents were destroying state property and preventing Texas National Guard and Department of Public Safety officers from securing the border.”
“While the Biden administration has argued the razor wire impedes Border Patrol operations, Texas has said it deters migrants from swimming across the Rio Grande to enter the country illegally,” reports CBS News. “Still, groups of migrants routinely crawl underneath the wire to get into the US, often cutting themselves in the process.”
The ruling to allow the razor wire to be removed from the border coincides with a revelation that the Drug Enforcement Administration seized a record 386 million doses of fentanyl last year, which the New York Post notes “is deadly enough to kill every American, literally.”