Tag Archives: Ovide LaMontagne

Republican debate highlights Bass weaknesses

11 Sep

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.

Bob Giuda, Jennifer Horn, and Charlie Bass participate in a debate at New England College on Saturday.

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.

Weekly Wrap — June 13-19

20 Jun

Each weekend I post a “Weekly Wrap,” or my impressions of the race as they played out during the past seven days.

The week wasn’t particularly riveting on the campaign event front. But there were a few stories on the 2nd district candidates that made the news, and the individuals are all starting to better articulate where they will stand in the race.

Below are my top three observations of the week:

1. Charlie Bass on Joe Barton– You really didn’t need this

Charlie Bass‘s campaign issued a statement today condemning the apology issued to BP by Rep. Joe Barton of Texas — the very Congressman who was in New Hampshire campaigning for Bass as recently as two weeks ago.

Whoops.

Barton received extensive criticism after he apologized to BP executives in a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on Thursday. Barton said he regretted that BP would be forced to pay for cleanup of the spill.

Not surprisingly, this caused quite the stir. The New Hampshire Democratic Party called on Bass to renounce Barton’s actions, and Bass’s Democratic opponents were quick to jump on this political gimme.

I could not disagree with Congressman Bass and Congressman Barton more — BP should be apologizing to America, not the other way around,” wrote Ann McLane Kuster on her Facebook page.

Katrina Swett issued this statement: ““If Charlie isn’t deeply embarrassed to be tied to BP’s defenders, then he’s hopelessly lost in a Gulf of Hypocrisy.”

While Bass couldn’t have known what Barton would say when inviting him to campaign two weeks ago, it reflected poorly on a candidate who is already struggling to shake off the “Washington insider” image.

It made him an easy target for Democratic criticism, and waiting until Sunday to issue a statement didn’t help his cause. Where was Bass’s campaign manager on this one?

2. It might really be the “year of the woman”

… or whatever it is the media is calling it after the July 9 primary. Watching the highly articulate, confident, and accomplished Jennifer Horn and Katrina Swett discuss the role of women in politics today, I was highly impressed.

They — and Ann McLane Kuster — are going places, if not the U.S. House of Representatives. All of them are admirable people who young girls would hope to emulate, politics aside.

The 2nd district could easily see a faceoff between two accomplished female politicians, as it seems that the women are among the most inspiring and energetic candidates in the race and best able to connect with voters.

Swett said Friday that she thought women, although they can certainly be fighters, bring a greater degree of cooperation to politics than men: “I think was women we can bring a certain sense of openness and that’s very valuable.”

Voters in the 2nd district may very well be able to test that theory should they send a woman to Congress.

3. The candidates have a thing or two to learn from Bob Etheridge

North Carolina Democratic Congressman Bob Etheridge faced major criticism this week when he physically assaulted a young man on a public street, after the unidentified man put a video camera in the politician’s face and began asking questions.

The incident raised questions about the role of opposition operatives in politics. It was politically disastrous for Etheridge — and should serve as a lesson to everyone else.

While nothing of the sort has happened in New Hampshire’s 2nd district race, opposition members of campaigns are certainly at work. Bass has staffers attending most events hosted by other candidates, and other candidates have done the same.

At a recent GOP event, I was asked quite seriously if I was a “Democratic operative” and told I would have to leave if this were the case.

And at the Concord GOP meeting, a member of Senate candidate Bill Binnie‘s staff filmed rival Ovide LaMontagne speaking, promoting LaMontagne to addressed Binnie through the girl’s camera.

But if Etheridge’s mishap taught politicians anything, it’s that openness is the best policy — even for members of rival staffs.

Whatever they say in public is fair game, and it does nothing to improve their image when they discourage — or throw, in Etheridge’s case — their opponents from the room. Unless they’re counting on wrestling as a backup career.

Have a question about something? Disagree with me? Leave a comment below or email me at elizakern@gmail.com.

Up next: Check back Tuesday for analysis of Ann McLane Kuster’s appearance at the Plymouth Area Democrats Candidates Forum.

Horn grasps at history to “connect” with voters

17 Jun

CONCORD, NH — At the Concord GOP meeting, Senate candidate Ovide LaMontagne articulated the ideal in American politics, and the hope of many Republicans for November.

“It’s not going to be about the candidate with the most money. It’s going to be about the candidate that connects the best with the people,” he told the small crowd gathered Thursday night.

The cover of a pamphlet promoting Jennifer Horn, with an image of the Boston Tea Party used to galvanize voters.

This theory may be no more than a hope, but for Jennifer Horn, who is working to catch up to more successful fundraising opponents from both parties, connecting with voters is her best bet.

But Horn’s not looking to flashy new language and images designed in the 21st century. She’s looking to the 18th.

Trying to capitalize on Tea Party Movement successes in other parts of the country and voters angry with Democratic spending and health care measures, Horn has sought to make connections between the current political state and that of the American Revolution.

A recent campaign flier shows the original Boston Tea Party and urges voters to view the outcome of the 2010 elections as equally important as the challenges that faced the Founding Fathers. Horn frequently calls the upcoming election the most important in her lifetime, and urges voters to bring a “new day” to politics.

Republicans at local town meetings certainly seem galvanized about the election and eager to have their turn at the helm of government. For many, they haven’t seen the change President Obama promised in his campaign, and they’re ready to downgrade the size of federal government — especially Republicans in New Hampshire.

With moderate Charlie Bass running a solid campaign based on his experience in Washington, Horn and fellow conservative Bob Giuda have significant leeway to move significantly to his right, capturing voters frustrated with the former Congressman’s moderate stance — explaining why Horn might present herself as a modern-day Patrick Henry.

Of course, it’s possible that voters will view Horn’s strict interpretation of the Constitution, grasps at American Revolution allusions  and parchment paper-website backgrounds as entirely ridiculous.

But the strategy has proven successful for others. And for Horn, the chances that voters angry with Democrats and President Obama will admire her appreciation for history and grasp of rhetoric is probably too great to pass up.