CONCORD, NH — In a primary race that proved nothing is ever a sure thing in politics, Republican Charlie Bass barely eked out a win over conservative underdog Jennifer Horn early Wednesday morning, setting the stage for his matchup with liberal Democratic nominee Ann McLane Kuster in the November election.
In a three-way race with Republican Bob Giuda, Bass’s victory looked uncertain well into the night, when only a single percentage point separated him and Horn. At 12:30 a.m., about two hours after Kuster declared victory in her Democratic primary, Bass told supporters that the gap between him and Horn was growing, and he expected to win his race. At 1 a.m., the Associated Press called the race for Bass.
But in a race where Bass had long been considered a frontrunner by the national media and was running against two opponents splitting the conservative vote, to face a serious challenge from a woman who didn’t have the finances to run television ads must prove a concern for state Republicans.
While Bass did eventually secure the win, there was a point in the night when supporters were quiet and worried, and reporters started drafting stories in case of a Horn victory. Probably not how the former Congressman wanted to stage his comeback.
But when Bass did take the stage, there began to emerge glimpses of the former six-term Congressman who won kudos for his pragmatic leadership and steady, moderate approach to politics. While it’s not his style to dazzle a crowd, he seemed newly energized as he said of national Democrats, ”Madam Speaker, start packing your bags.”
Cheers from moderate Republican supporters — one of whom said Bass has always been “good old Charlie” — buoyed the candidate’s oft-repeated speech about returning to politics to fix Washington and cut government spending.
Bass spoke of making this election “Kuster’s last stand” with a conviction that wasn’t present in his earlier deliveries of the line, and marked the first stages of what will likely be a close and contested November election, in which Bass will try to paint Kuster as a radical, left-wing liberal, and Kuster will portray him as a washed-up D.C. insider.
“I couldn’t stand aside and let this district be represented by two Democrats who are so liberal they make Obama look like Glen Beck,” he said.
And with the GOP nomination called for Bass, his supporters can finally turn their efforts to the ultimate prize: a win on November 2.
Check back later today for Top 5 takeaway points from the race, and photos from the night.
CONCORD, NH — Democrat Ann McLane Kuster easily coasted to victory this evening in her primary match against Katrina Swett. On Tuesday night, with 35 percent of precincts reporting, Kuster had won 68 percent to Swett’s 31 percent.
Although the numbers will continue to trickle in, Kuster was euphorious Tuesday night when she greeted supporters in Concord, speaking of her desire for unity and bipartisanship in her November race.
“Voters will have a crystal clear choice in November.”
Kuster congratulated opponent Swett on well-fought race, and expressed her excitement to beat the Republicans in November.
“She is a strong, intelligent, and fearless voice for our state. And I promise you Katrina, I will continue that.”
Kuster will face a Republican opponent in the general election, but at 12:30 a.m. on Wednesday, the GOP race was too close to call.
Frontrunner Charlie Bass was locked in the race with opponent Jennifer Horn, with neither side declaring victory or defeat. Bass seemed confident that he would pull off the win, but votes will continue to be tallied into the night.
Check back later on Wednesday for updates on the GOP race, photos from Tuesday, and analysis of the crazy primary night.
NEWPORT, NH — Less than 24 hours before the polls will open in New Hampshire, Republican state legislator Beverly Rodeschin is doing everything she can to get Republican Congressional candidate Jennifer Horn nominated.
Ushering friends and acquaintances into Village Pizza on Main Street, she surveys the crowd to make sure everyone has a seat and enough pizza, and tells them to get excited for Horn’s arrival. She spoke excitedly of her candidate’s endorsement by the Union Leader. But privately, she said she’s not sure how Horn will fare tomorrow.
“Do you think she’s nervous?” she asks me.
Horn certainly didn’t seem nervous at the packed event in Newport on Monday. She hugged friends and supporters, gave glowing recommendations of the pizza and spoke passionately about why she should be the Republican nominee in November. She proved once again that she’s a strong campaigner who does an excellent job connecting with voters and making them believe in her words.
But with very little money to compete, and facing a challenge from opponent Bob Giuda to capture the conservative vote, a Horn victory on Tuesday isn’t looking likely. Almost all pundits and political reporters in the state have called the race for Republican Charlie Bass, the moderate former Congressman and fundraising leader.
The national media has tentatively predicted that Bass, a moderate, will appeal to more voters than Ann McLane Kuster, the liberal Democrat likely to be his opponent in November. But in talking to Rodeschin, it’s clear that Bass will have a hard time winning the state’s conservative base and coasting to victory in the general, should he win on Tuesday.
“He’s not a conservative,” Rodeschin said. She said she saw his performances in the GOP debate last week, and thought he looked “terrible.” She said she supports Horn because of the candidates’s clear conservative beliefs and likability among voters, although Giuda would be her second choice.
So would she vote for Bass in November, should he become the nominee?
“I would leave that spot blank,” she said, noting that she would still vote for Republicans in other state races.
It’s possible that Bass could still pull off a win with the support of the state’s independent and moderate voters who find Kuster (or Katrina Swett, should she win on the Democratic side) too liberal.
But all the talk of Republicans nationwide getting out to vote and changing the course of the 2010 midterms will be a non-factor in the 2nd district race if New Hampshire’s conservatives like those at Village Pizza on Monday feel that both candidates on the ballot are too centrist to win their vote — or even a trip to the polls.
HENNIKER, NH — While much of the focus and media attention in the 2nd district Congressional campaign has focused on the Democrats, the three Republican candidates showed Saturday that theirs is still a fascinating and peculiar struggle — that has been misunderstood by the national media.
Bob Giuda, Jennifer Horn and Charlie Bass took the stage at New England College only days before the September 14 primary. The interactions between the three showed how vastly different they are as candidates and how Bass has struggled to run against his conservative counterparts. In contrast to the media’s analysis of theirs as an imbalanced contest, none of the three looked like a clear winner.
While Bass will likely prevail due his fundraising abilities, Horn and Giuda’s performances illustrated the degree to which a well-funded conservative could have really changed the race, and the degree to which Bass will struggle against the much more dynamic Democrats in the general election.
Many outlets have written off the race as solidly within Bass’s grasp, and on paper, this seems right. He has the moderate credentials, party backing, experience and fundraising to render his opponents essentially non-factors in the race. But this narrative was not at all obvious at Saturday’s debate, where Bass underperformed and Giuda and Horn looked relatively strong.
From a visual perspective, Bass looked physically terrible in Saturday’s debate. Seeing him in person provided a sharp contrast with the media’s portrayal of an assured victor on Tuesday.
James Pindell noted in his column about last week’s debate that Bass seemed actually ill, and I wrote in July that his campaign has seemed fairly lackluster for months now. On Saturday, he closed his eyes while his opponents spoke, took breaths and pauses at random times, and displayed odd mannerisms that weren’t on display earlier this summer.
But even on a policy level, he largely failed to demonstrate the degree to which he is leading this race. Bass and Horn got into a heated discussion about the value of experience in a candidate, and it wasn’t clear that anyone won. For a man who served 12 years in Congress, not being able to articulate the value of experience against a woman who has never held office is concerning.
But Bass’s problem is that he’s essentially running as someone he is not. A moderate, mainstream Republican, he is trying to embrace the Tea Party phenomenon and win his base while also defending a moderate voting record and appealing to independents. It’s too much for any one person to accomplish, and he seems frusterated by the inconsistencies as a result.
Bass will likely do much better running against a liberal Democrat in the general election, where he can tout his widespread political appeal with less fear of alienating hardcore Republicans. But until Tuesday, he has to deal with this conundrum.
One of the panelists asked him if he’s concerned that party leaders don’t find him conservative enough, and he became visibly agitated at the suggestion, hitting the podium in response. “No one can beat my record,” he said, seeming distressed at the suggestion.
In contrast, Giuda looked sharp and effective in the exchange. He does well in public speaking because he’s an engaging, dynamic conversationalist. He is confident and clearly enjoys discussing foreign policy. It’s unfortunate that Giuda spend the entire time with an odd smirk on his face. And that his campaign has virtually no money or prospects for a win on Tuesday.
Horn also did well, challenging Bass on his voting record and his lack of idealism in revamping how Congress operates. What she lacks in substance and practical policy solutions, Horn more than compensates with her dyanamic, compassionate brand of conservatism that could resonate with more hardline GOP voters.
But as one panelist noted, Horn has failed to gather endorsements from national conservatives like Sarah Palin — likely a sore point for the self-proclaimed mama grizzly in this race. She has also struggled to raise enough money to really seriously compete with Bass.
And financing is perhaps the most important aspect of this race, and the reason Bass will win next week, despite a lackluster campaign. “We cannot nominate a candidate that is flat-broke the day after the election,” he said in one of the sharper moments of the debate, hitting his opponents where it counts.
Horn has more than $200,000 in debt from her failed 2008 campaign, and Giuda has loaned his team more than $100,000 of his own money. Neither are prepared to take on the Democrats, who have far out-raised the Republicans in this race. Ann McLane Kuster, the likely nominee at this point, has raised more than $1 million.
What would Horn or Giuda’s campaigns looked like had they raised the money to compete with Bass? The contest is eerily reminsicent of Ovide LaMontagne‘s Senate bid, which has gained momentum from conservative endorsements this week despite his inability to keep up with frontrunner Kelly Ayotte in fundraising.
It seems that Charlie Bass could have really struggled this year — but Horn and Giuda weren’t the candidates to make it happen.