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John DiStaso's Granite Status: Source says poll seems intended to push Havenstein into governor race

March 22. 2014 10:32PM

POLLING FOR WALT? A key New Hampshire Republican tells the Granite Status he was polled Thursday night by the Republican Governors Association, with the focus on former BAE Systems Chief Executive Walt Havenstein, who is considering running for governor.

According to our source, there were standard vulnerability testing issues asked about Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan.

The poll asked generic questions about the governor's race, such as should Hassan be reelected, awareness testing, favorable/unfavorable. Similar questions where then asked about Havenstein.

Further questions were asked about Hassan and Havenstein after basic narrative information was given.

Also tested were U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and former Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, who is exploring a run against her.

Among the issues tested were Northern Pass, Medicaid expansion, casinos and a gas tax hike.

Our source said he was asked to give an opinion of the Tea Party and the National Rifle Association.

According to the source, there were no questions involving announced GOP candidate for governor Andrew Hemingway, no congressional questions, no other U.S. Senate questions and no generic state legislative ballot questions.

He said the caller voluntarily identified the sponsor as the RGA.

The poll shows that while Havenstein remains below the radar, interest in him as a candidate for governor is high not only in New Hampshire, but also in Washington.

This Republican came away from the poll with the distinct impression that it was done "to help encourage Walter to join the race."

JOE RETURNS. Vice President Joe Biden next week will return to New Hampshire for the first time since the 2012 campaign.

Biden was a frequent visitor in the months leading up to his and President Barack Obama's reelection, but he has not been back, until now.

The White House announced Friday that Biden will make an official (read taxpayer-paid) visit, as opposed to a political visit, to Nashua on Tuesday.

The White House said he will appear at an event "highlighting work force development and the value of on-the-job training opportunities."

Neither the venue nor time were immediately announced.

State Republicans quickly jumped on the announcement by asking whether the three Democratic members of the state's congressional delegation and Hassan would appear with Biden.

The answer came back: Hassan, yes; congressional delegation, no.

Shaheen's spokesman, Shripal Shah, said the senator will be on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, attending a meeting of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee she chairs. Shah also noted that voting on resolutions related to the crisis in Ukraine begins on Monday.

Spokesmen for Reps. Carol Shea-Porter and Ann Kuster said they will also be in Washington on Tuesday.

Shea-Porter spokesman Ben Wakana said she "is a big proponent of work force development and on-the-job training, but votes are scheduled on Tuesday, so she'll be representing New Hampshire in Congress that day."

Kuster spokesman Rosie Hilmer said she "will be focused on representing the interests of her constituents in Congress and fighting to create jobs and opportunity for Granite Staters."

Hassan spokesman Marc Goldberg said the governor plans to attend, although, he said, the governor's office is awaiting further details.

Goldberg said Hassan is pleased that her work force training efforts are gaining "national recognition" as a result of the vice president's visit.

Obviously, the NHGOP is aware of Obama's less-than-stellar poll numbers in the state and the unpopularity of Obamacare. Shaheen last week declined to say whether would welcome an Obama visit to the state.

Although the visit is nonpolitical, the announcement happened to come a week after Brown announced an exploratory committee to "prepare" for a run for the Shaheen seat. If Brown makes it official, as expected, he'd first face a primary with former U.S. Sen. Bob Smith, former state Sen. Jim Rubens and conservative activist Karen Testerman.

NHGOP Chairman Jennifer Horn said: "Senator Shaheen, Governor Hassan and Representatives Kuster and Shea-Porter have all been enthusiastic backers of the failed Obama-Biden agenda that has hurt New Hampshire families. They should use the vice president's trip as an opportunity to appear with him and personally defend their unwavering support for Obamacare, the President's job-killing tax increases and his radical policies that will increase the cost of energy for the middle class."

NHDP Chairman Raymond Buckley countered: "Joe Biden has been making visits to the Granite State for the last 30 years, allowing countless Granite Staters to directly interact with the vice president. I'm sure this trip will once again highlight the clear contrast between the Democratic Party's vision of progress and expanded opportunity for New Hampshire families and the Republican Party's plan to revert back to the failed policies of the past while pushing a radical social agenda instead of focusing on putting Americans back to work.

Buckley added: "This trip would also be a great chance for former Republican Party Chair Fergus Cullen and Republican State Representative Herb Richardson to meet with the vice president and share their positive experiences with the Affordable Care Act, saving each of their families thousands of dollars a year on health insurance. We sincerely hope that they will be able to attend the event."

Cullen earlier last week reportedly said he will save $1,000 a month in premiums for his family's health care package under Obamacare, but also said he anticipates higher out-of-pocket costs and is unhappy with what he views as insufficient information about options.

Richardson reportedly told Brown Obamacare had been a "financial lifesaver" for him and his wife.

MEANWHILE, IN ROCHESTER. While Biden is in Nashua, Brown will continue his anti-Obamacare theme with a visit to Frisbie Memorial Hospital.

Frisbie is among 10 New Hampshire hospitals left off of the Anthem exchange under the ACA, and CEO Al Felgar has by far been the most vocal about it.

At a recent event in Portsmouth organized by the conservative Americans for Prosperity, Felgar called the ACA a disaster and said, according to, "The whole process stinks. We've got many, many patients who will sign up under the Affordable Care Act, but they can't go to the hospital they've been going to for decades."

With Biden in Nashua and Brown in Rochester, it should make for an interesting tale of two cities.

TICKET TO TEXAS. When New England Cable News interviewed Obama last Wednesday, he called Shaheen a "terrific" and "great senator" and suggested Brown would be better off moving to, of all places, Texas.

Obama told NECN, "I'd be happy if Scott Brown wants to move down to Texas. You know, we could always use some moderate Republicans in other parts of the country. New Hampshire's already got it covered with a great senator."

Brown responded by asking Shaheen to bring Obama to New Hampshire to defend "their health care law."

"President Obama and Jeanne Shaheen are joined at the hip," Brown said. "If it wasn't for Jeanne Shaheen, Obamacare would not have become the law of the land. He is going to do everything he can to help Jeanne Shaheen in this election."


. While the RGA was polling on Havenstein, Hemingway's campaign was circulating a poll by the American Research Group of Manchester showing Hassan leading Hemingway by a surprisingly close margin of 45 to 30 percent. ARG noted that in the March poll of 2004, then-Gov. Craig Benson led an unidentified Democrat 45 to 27 percent.

. Executive Councilor-elect Joe Kenney will hold an inaugural celebration dinner on Saturday at the Mount Washington Hotel.

. The day before potential GOP 2016 presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Rand Paul appears at the "Freedom Summit" in Manchester sponsored by Americans for Prosperity and Citizens United, he will appear on Friday, April 11, at a $50-a-person fundraiser for the state Republican Party at Cottage by the Bay in Dover.


John DiStaso is senior political reporter of the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. He can be reached at and followed on Twitter: @jdistaso.

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