It was good to see state Republican Party Chairman Steve Stepanek dismiss any notion that New Hampshire would follow Republicans in other states and, “cancel” the next Presidential Primary in deference to the incumbent President.
Stepanek has told The Associated Press that he could “never conceive of the New Hampshire primary ever being canceled for any reason.”
Not that either Republicans or Democrats here could block our first-in-the-nation primary. Unlike some others, here it is the state, not any party, that runs the show. (Maybe that’s what NH Public Radio means with its dismissive “stranglehold” primary nonsense?)
Republicans elsewhere have canceled their next primaries because the titular head of the party is Donald Trump. Out of loyalty or fear of Trumpian retribution, these folks would rather not risk the President getting his hair mussed in a primary. Whatever the reason, the practice is not without precedent.
But that’s not the New Hampshire way. We welcome all comers. The elimination of some other contests makes New Hampshire stand out even more. Whether a challenger can make a dent in Trump’s armor or, as Stepanek suggests, people will turn out “just to show their support,” remains to be seen.
Understandably, most of the attention for our 2020 primary is on the Democrats’ ballot. Speculation is that the large pool of independent voters (those not registered with any party) will weigh in on the Democratic race.
But history shows that New Hampshire voters are full of surprises. Some incumbent Presidents have been so stung here that they have either not sought a second term (think Harry Truman in 1952 or LBJ in 1968) or, having soldiered on, have lost the subsequent general election (“Read our lips,’’ George H.W. Bush).
The three thus-far announced GOP challengers have not exactly shaken the confidence of Trump backers. But. Stepanek’s prediction that the President will get a primary vote percentage “well into the 90s” may be a bit too rosy.
Things have a way of turning quickly in politics. The 2020 primary remains a ways off, and the GOP field may yet expand.