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May 28. 2014 11:21PM

Drew Cline: Street cred and endorsements in the U.S. Senate primary

IN THE Republican U.S. Senate primary, endorsements are flying like bullets at the August, 2007, Manchester Republican Committee fundraiser. That event, by the way, drew national attention for featuring a machine gun shoot. Then-Manchester Democratic Party Chairman Chris Pappas, now on the Executive Council, called it “downright offensive.” It was organized by city Republican Chairman Jerry Thibodeau, who later moved to Rumney, ran for the Republican nomination for Executive Council in 2012, and last week endorsed Scott Brown for U.S. Senate.

Thibodeau said in an op-ed sent to the media last week that Republicans “must nominate a candidate who can beat Senator Shaheen, and that’s why I am supporting Scott Brown,” whom he contrasted favorably to former Sen. Bob Smith. Thibodeau wrote that Smith was “flailing,” which is the prevailing opinion among New Hampshire Republicans. The endorsement contest is between only two candidates: Brown and Jim Rubens.Rubens announced a list of endorsers on Wednesday that included some notable Tea Partyish names: former Alderman Phil Greazzo of Manchester, longtime Bedford Taxpayer Association head Roy Stewart, Kevin Coyle of Derry and the Marijuana Policy Project’s Matt Simon of Goffstown. Today the Rubens campaign announces the endorsement of the Republican Liberty Caucus, headed by conservative activist Aaron Day. These are conservatives/libertarians one would not normally expect to back Jim Rubens, a moderate Republican who has never quite fit in with the conservative wing of the party. But this race is producing some interesting bedfellows.Rubens is gaining more support from the Tea Party/Libertarian/2nd Amendment cliques than he would get if anyone thought the self-proclaimed conservative candidates in the race could win. But Karen Testerman, though well liked, is not considered a serious candidate by most party insiders or activists. No one thinks she can beat Jeanne Shaheen. Then there is “flailing” Bob Smith, who endorsed John Kerry in 2004 and has joined and quit and rejoined the Republican Party more times than if the GOP had tried to get the guy from “Memento” to register to vote. Few New Hampshire Republicans want to be associated with the erratic Smith. When Sen. Kelly Ayotte, state Sen. Jeb Bradley and former Gov. Steve Merrill and Gov. Craig Benson endorsed Scott Brown this week, it was seen as further confirmation that the “establishment” had its candidate.

Rubens and Smith played the endorsements as confirmations of their own conservative street cred. But the fact is that Brown is widely seen, even among many conservatives, as the only candidate who has a chance to beat Shaheen. If that becomes the dominant view within the party rank and file as well as the activists and insiders, both establishment and not, it will be hard for Rubens to win. The irony is that moderate Rubens is finally gaining widespread credibility among the conservative base, something long seen as his weak spot, but he is losing the establishment.And speaking of endorsements, Marilinda Garcia, running for the Republican nomination for Congress in the 2nd District, will hold a fundraiser on the roof of the Republican State Leadership Committee building in Washington, D.C., next Thursday, with former Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno as the host/speaker. The event grew from Garcia’s May 8 visit to the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute’s annual gala in Washington.

Andrew Cline is editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader. His column runs on Thursdays. You can follow him on Twitter @Drewhampshire.


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