Sep 29, 2015 6:21 PM

Landrigan: New Hampshire primary past 2016 faces threat from outgoing RNC chairman


``Ordinarily I would say absolutely this is not going to be a big deal but when you have a chair of the other side saying New Hampshire or Iowa shouldn’t go first, it’s certainly time for concern.’’

That’s Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley taking very seriously the latest threat to New Hampshire’s treasured, first-in-the-nation primary status.

Sound the alarm. Lame-duck Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus says beyond 2016 the GOP should explore giving all states a shot at the first primary.

``Raging storm clouds in the air but New Hampshire is no stranger to these threats to our first in the nation primary,’’ says Chief Political Correspondent Kevin Landrigan

Priebus exact words were, ``I don’t think there should ever be any sacred cows as to the primary process or order.’’

And the Wisconsin Republican didn’t apologize for suggesting the status of New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina should change.

``It’s a hot topic. These early states are very used to fighting this out every four years. It’s just something I think we ought to look at as a party,’’ Priebus told the National Journal Tuesday.

``If you look at my history, I’ve been very supportive of the early states as general counsel and as chairman. But I don’t think anyone should get too comfortable.’’

Gov. Maggie Hassan sounds ready to do battle.

``And I’ll continue to fight for the New Hampshire primary being first in the nation,’’ Hassan vowed.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, who could face Hassan in a titanic, 2016 faceoff, was just as confident of ultimate victory.

“Past efforts to diminish the role of our primary have never been successful, and I will always fight to protect New Hampshire’s first in the nation status,’’ Ayotte said in a statement.

Secretary of State Bill Gardner, the longest serving election official in the country, has engaged and won countless primary tests before.

``Over the years we’ve had situations like this before. This isn’t something that is unusual, the timing is what is unusual,’’ Gardner said.

Political observers in both parties note WI Gov. Scott Walker, a personal friend to Priebus, had exited the race last week after failing to catch on either in New Hampshire or Iowa.

Gardner said we’ve had a first-in-the-nation state law guarantee since 1975 and it’s held us in good stead.

``This primary succeeds because of our voters and because of how the candidates to respond to the reception and opportunities they receive here,’’ Gardner said.

Ironically, if New Hampshire sets its primary on Feb. 9, Gardner said it will be the first time in the near 30 years he’s been secretary of state that his state will be in compliance with the letter of Democratic and Republican Party rules.

Our secret weapons? High voter turnout, Secretary of State Gardner, a first primary protection law and an echo of praise from those running and the press covering them.

``Campaigns and the national media. They would be up in arms about such a move. Listen they’ve grown accustomed to putting their resources and spending their time in the early voting states like New Hampshire Iowa and South Carolina so any move to rock the boat they will be against it,’’ said NH1 News Political Director Paul Steinhauser.

Almost on cue, candidates from both parties weighed in to offer their support as Gardner himself reported his office phone was ``ringing off the hook’’ with offers to help from campaigns and national media outlets.

``Pleased to be headed back to the Granite State, which is and should remain, first in the nation. See ya tonight #fitn,’’ tweeted GOP contender Jeb Bush.

GOP hopeful John Kasich called on the RNC to reject the suggestion from Priebus.

"New Hampshire and Iowa have earned the responsibility to hold the first primary and first caucus to launch the nominee for our Party,’’ Kaisch said.

``Voters in these states take their responsibility seriously and are among the most active, knowledgeable voters anywhere in the nation. By requiring that candidates engage directly with the voters, every candidate is tested and judged fairly. I strongly urge the RNC to preserve New Hampshire and Iowa's earned status as first in the nation."

Republican Chairwoman Jennifer Horn sees this as the normal hurdle the Granite State clears every four years.

``The New Hampshire Republican State Committee is fully committed to continuing to fight to preserve the very important role we play,’’ Horn said.

Meanwhile, Democratic National Committeewoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz issued a statement offering her support for New Hampshire’s continued role.

``The early states have played a historic role in choosing presidents of the United States, and the Democratic Party believes our candidates benefit from a primary schedule that allows them to connect with voters on the issues that matter in places like New Hampshire,’’ she said in a statement.

Legislative and party leaders also said New Hampshire’s future gets a boost from candidates who realize the retail style politics gives them a chance.

``There are candidates that never would have gotten off the ground but for New Hampshire,’’ said House Speaker Pro Tem Sherman Packard.

And House Majority Whip Richard Hinch, R-Merrimack, said both parties remain united.

``The bipartisan we have behind this effort, it does really contribute to us holding on to this,’’ Hinch said.

Republican National Committee member Steve Duprey said the power of Super PACs that seek a national primary played a role in Priebus making his comments.

But like Horn, Duprey said this is not unlike the obstacle course New Hampshire faces before every presidential election to keep its status.

Duprey has been a member of the RNC’s rules committee and chairs the committee on debates.

Duprey told NH1 News that when it comes to the Granite States seemingly eternal struggle to keep first-in-the-nation primary status, "this book has lots of chapters."

NH1 News Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this story



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