It’s October 2014. There is a major midterm election in first-in-the-nation primary state New Hampshire.
How convenient that is for future presidential candidates, who are flocking here or announcing plans to do so to make new friends, revive long-standing friendships and help local candidates as they look ahead to what comes next.
The biggest fish in the 2016 presidential sea, Hillary Clinton, announced today that she’s on her way. It was certainly not a surprise that Clinton would come here, but the announcement still generated excitement and served to reinforce just how important New Hampshire is in national politics, both in this mid-term year and in the upcoming presidential campaign.
And although her visit won’t be until November – Nov. 2 to be exact, two days before the election – the announcement was enough to dominate the political news cycle on a beautiful fall Friday in the Granite State, overshadowing the usual political attacks and counter-attacks.
And the timing of the Clinton visit also illustrates where New Hampshire ranks on her radar.
She’ll campaign for candidates in nine states before the election, but she’ll wait until the virtually end of the campaign for New Hampshire. And in political terms, being last chronologically is being first in importance.
Clinton is scheduled to campaign not only for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, but also for Gov. Maggie Hassan. Her visit will come just more than two weeks after her husband, former President Bill Clinton, arrives in the state to keynote the New Hampshire Democratic Party’s annual Jefferson-Jackson fundraising dinner in Manchester.
What would happen if Hillary made a surprise early visit and joined Bill at the big event? Speculation ran rampant about that possibility on Friday.
From the Democratic perspective, of course, New Hampshire has long been Clinton Country. Bill Clinton was boosted to the Democratic presidential nomination by this second-place “Comeback Kid”/”‘Til The Last Dog Dies” showing in the 1992 presidential primary.
He won the state handily in the 1992 general election over then-President George H.W. Bush and again in 1996 over Bob Dole.
Hillary Clinton won the 2008 presidential primary after trailing Barack Obama in the polls a week before the votes were cast.
Her approval rating in New Hampshire, among likely 2016 Democratic presidential primary voters, is 87 percent, according to a University of New Hampshire poll conducted in July.
“There is so much at stake for New Hampshire in this election and I couldn’t be more grateful to have Secretary Clinton’s support,” Shaheen said. “She’s someone I’m proud to call a friend, and I can’t wait to welcome her back to New Hampshire.”
The state Republican Party released a scathing statement referring to comments made by Shaheen’s husband, William, in 2007, questioning whether Obama’s admitted use of drugs as a youth would hurt his electability.
“Hillary Clinton still owes the Shaheens a political favor for their efforts to smear Barack Obama as a drug dealer during the 2008 New Hampshire Primary,” said NHGOP spokesman Lauren Zelt. “It’s obvious that Secretary Clinton’s effort to prop up Senator Shaheen’s flailing campaign is an effort to repay her and her husband for their role in this sordid chapter in New Hampshire political history.”
The Republican parade has been underway for several months, and it will resume — and pick up in frequency — next week.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry had been scheduled to return for two days, but this afternoon he abruptly canceled the trip “to attend to state business,” said Mike Dennehy, a Concord GOP strategist who is a consultant for American’s for Economic Freedom, a group organized by Perry associates.
The announcement came amid concerns about a possible Ebola outbreak in Dallas.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio arrives on Tuesday and will campaign with U.S. Senate hopeful Scott Brown. He’ll return on Oct. 24 to campaign with Garcia.
Also on the way in October are lesser-known possible hopefuls — Republican former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence
And, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who spoke by telephone this week with more than 100 state House candidates, will be back later this month, too.
Undoubtedly there will be more, because this is, after all, mid-term election season in New Hampshire. It is time for would-be presidents to help — and prepare for what comes next. It is a time when one campaign reaches its climax and another, bigger one takes seed.