NH1 News talks 1-on-1 with the man fighting to protect NH's FITN primary status
CONCORD – Steve Duprey’s ready once again to do battle in what he calls “a very tough fight” to protect the Granite State. The longtime Republican National Committee committeeman from New Hampshire and veteran member of the all-important Rules Committee will be in Cleveland this week to try and preserve the state’s first-in-the-nation status in the GOP primary calendar.
The latest threat is a proposal from Rules Committee chair Enid Mickelson of Utah which proposes matching up Iowa (the first caucus state), New Hampshire, and South Carolina (the first southern state to vote in the primary calendar) with neighboring states on a rotating basis. And the Granite State, which allows independents to vote in either the Republican or Democratic primaries, faces a push supported by RNC Chairman Reince Priebus to penalize states holding open contests.
Both proposals will be in the mix when the Rules Committee of the RNC meets Tuesday and Wednesday, followed Thursday and Friday by the larger Rules Committee of the Republican National Convention.
Both rules committees will also be the scene of what may be the last stand of Republicans opposed to the nomination of Donald Trump. The anti-Trump forces are supporting a plan that would allow convention delegates to vote their conscience when picking the party’s presidential nominee, instead of adhering to the results of the primary or caucus in their state. Anti-Trump forces suggest passing such a “conscience” clause could cause mass defections from the presumptive nominee and cripple Trump’s chances of winning the nomination at the convention.
Duprey, a former longtime New Hampshire GOP chairman and a senior adviser to 2008 Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain’s campaign, spoke with NH1 News at his property management company on Thursday for an interview that aired Sunday on NH1 Newsmakers.
Asked if the anti-Trump forces can reach the 28 votes in the 112 member convention Rules Committee to pass minority report on the “conscience” clause, Duprey said “no. I don’t see any support for that. I don’t think they’ll get enough to file a minority report. Look, we play by the rules. The rules are set up front. You can like or not like Donald Trump. You can think he’s a Republican or think he’s not a Republican. But he followed the rules and he won the nomination following the rules. I don’t see any support for changing the rules. In essence what people who are voting for this conscience clause to unbind the delegates, are saying that I as a representative of New Hampshire should substitute my judgement for the votes taken in our direct presidential primary. If we’re going to do that, why bother to have a primary at all. It’s the antithesis of what the New Hampshire primary stood for. Donald Trump was not my top choice, of our 16 candidates for president, and I was neutral in the primary, but he won fair and square and I see zero support. I know there was a lot of talk about it early, but I don’t think there’s going to be enough votes to file a minority report and have it be a discussion of the floor the convention.”
Asked if the minority report calling for the unbinding of the delegates did reach the 28 vote threshold, what would happen next, Duprey said “then it would go to the full floor with our two-thousand plus delegates and that would be one of the orders of business, of debate, when we come to adopting our rules. But I do not think they get to that. And certainly don’t see that level of support at the smaller Rules Committee of the Republican National Committee that meets first.”
Fighting to keep NH first
As for the resumption of his longtime battle to protect New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary status, Duprey said “I think it’s a very tough fight. There’s a four step process: The 56 members of the Rules Committee of the Republican National Committee will meet Tuesday and Wednesday. I don’t think they’ll consider any rules changes. I think they’ll defer to the Rules Committee of the convention. That committee starts to meet on Thursday. That’s 112 member committee. Only a small percentage of those are folks who’ve been on the Republican National Committee. And I think it’s a real threat. The first threat was that they we’re going to try and do the rotating regional primary, the idea that’s been cycling around since 1996. I think people found that too difficult to get state legislatures on board. So somebody came up with the idea of pairing New Hampshire with Massachusetts. And it’s an innovative idea because the argument will be you’re spending the money on Boston TV, it’s a state right next door, you can drive to, there’s no extra expense. But the fact of the matter is if you had to campaign in six states instead of three, it would cut out a whole layer of candidates who wouldn’t have the opportunity to participate. So I’m hopeful that we can defeat it, but it’s going to be a tough fight. Interestingly, all 16 our presidential candidates have said they support keeping Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina first. We intend to call in those commitments.”
Asked about the push against open or semi-open primaries, Duprey said “you know it cuts both ways. In 2012 the complaint was Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina picked the nominee. This time we set up the rules so more states could participate. Thirty-eight different states had conventions, caucuses or primaries. More states got to participate. Now the complaint is that it took too long and that it was too messy. That’s exactly what we asked for. And in those 38 states there are some closed states primaries fairly early on. I think it’s important to one of your earlier states like New Hampshire be an open state because it shows whether your message can attract independents and you need them to win a general election. This whole effort isn’t about winning the Republican nomination. Been there, done that with John McCain. It’s about winning the presidency of the United States. So while there’s some state who argue that it should be closed. I think that would be terrible for the Republican Party’s prospects of winning in a general election.”
Every four years Duprey invites RNC committee members to New Hampshire to witness the first-in-the-nation primary. Asked if his lobbying will once again pay off, Duprey said “that’s one of the reasons I bring up members of the RNC who’ve never seen the New Hampshire primary up close. We had a dozen this time. I think 11 of them are going to be on our side and they came from places like North Dakota, Arkansas, Mississippi, Washington DC, California. It’s important and I think we’ve got some good allies and I think it’s always helpful when we have allies from states that aren’t in the early three making the case. So we’re going to give it our best and we also have the added benefit of having the state law and a very nimble secretary of state.”