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Grant Bosse: Primary results proved me right, as always

By GRANT BOSSE
September 17. 2018 5:21PM




THE KEY TO BEING a successful political pundit is the ability to use new evidence to support your prior views.

No matter the results, you have to be able to fit them into your pre-existing narrative. So, let’s look at how last week’s primary proved that I was right all along.

Candidates matter more than money

Political fundraising is important, but overrated. First District congressional candidate Maura Sullivan vastly outraised the Democratic field, but used her campaign funds to push a flawed, hollow message. She made no connection to the district. Voters noticed.

Chris Pappas, who flirted with winning an outright majority in the 11-person field, was the only other Democrat to raise a significant amount. He used it on a disciplined campaign focused on his New Hampshire roots, his liberal voting record, and Sullivan’s out-of-state fundraising.

Campaign finance reformers, including Pappas, who complain about money in politics should give voters more credit.

National media cover local races poorly

With 435 House seats, most congressional races will receive little to no national coverage. That’s fine.

When the national spotlight does fall on a local race, it is often for the wrong reason.

Such was the case with Levi Sanders. He ran in the First Congressional District despite living in the Second. He didn’t run much of a campaign beyond accepting debate invitations. Yet because is father his Sen. Bernie Sanders, he received more national ink than the rest of the field combined.

The New York Times profiled Sanders in August, briefly mentioned Sullivan and Pappas, and didn’t bother to name any of the other eight Democratic candidates. On election night, Sanders received just 1,160 votes, placing him seventh.

If you were following the race from outside New Hampshire, you would think Sanders’ defeat was a stunning upset. “Bernie Sanders’ son trounced in New Hampshire primary” read the headline in Politico, mirroring how national outlets covered the race.

Sanders barely ran a campaign, but he was related to someone famous. And if the Trump campaign has taught us anything, it is that celebrity brings ratings and clicks. National political reporters are drawn to such stories, even when they do not reflect the real race.

Identity politics is gross

The second wave of national coverage of the First District came after Eddie Edwards secured the Republican nomination.

Pappas is a former state representative, a former county treasurer, and an executive councilor. His family owns an iconic Manchester restaurant. He is gay.

Edwards is a Navy veteran, former head of liquor enforcement, and a former police chief. He is black.

Do you want to guess how the national press identified these two accomplished congressional candidates?

Yup, the gay guy versus the black guy. New Hampshire would “make history” either way. Gross.

I’m fine with noting trailblazers, but such demographic distinctions should not define an election.

Of the six Republican and Democratic nominees for governor or Congress, Gov. Chris Sununu is the only straight, white male. So what? Framing political campaigns as Census form box-checking is both reductive and divisive. National political reporters seem incapable of covering little outside of identity politics, polling, and gaffes.

I was wrong about this

I thought that Eddie Edwards’ refusal to promise to endorse Republican rival Andy Sanborn would hurt him more. Many party activists expect candidates asking for their vote to be team players and support the entire ticket, win or lose.

But Edwards took a stand, and took a chance. It didn’t seem to matter as he beat Sanborn by 6.5 percent. We could use a little more independence in Washington.

Grant Bosse is editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. Email him at gbosse@unionleader.com and follow him on Twitter @grantbosse.


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