Nov 6, 2014 5:16 PM

Paul Steinhauser: So long 2014, hello 2016

NH1 Political Director -

CONCORD - With Election Day 2014 now in rear view mirror, the next race for the White House begins.

And here in New Hampshire, you can argue that the next presidential contest started a few months ago.

"The 2016 presidential primary is already underway," said Neil Levesque, executive director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics.

A bunch of the possible White House hopefuls hit the campaign trail in the Granite State the past couple of months. On their public agenda - helping New Hampshire Republicans running in the midterms. But of course they were also saying hello to state GOP activists and donors and quietly planting some 2016 seeds.

On the Republican side, topping the list was New Jersey Gov. Christie. The chairman of the Republican Governors Association made five trips to New Hampshire since June. Other frequent flyers were Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Marco Rubio of Florida, and Rob Portman of Ohio, as well as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. They each visited the state twice since Labor Day.

"We're looking at the most wide open Republican presidential primary in history. There is no front runner. There is no heir apparent," said Manchester based GOP consultant Jim Merrill. "We're excited to look at a new generation of Republicans. We've got an awful lot of good prospective candidates to look at."

"I think both Chris Christie and Rand Paul start with a head start in New Hampshire. But you've also got a number of other folks like Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal. If Jeb Bush runs, Rob Portman's spent some time up here," added Merrill, gaming the potential field.

Rick Perry will be the first big name candidate to pay a visit post-midterms.

The longtime Republican governor of Texas, who made a 2012 bid for the nomination, will be in New Hampshire Sunday and Monday.

"It's no secret that Rick Perry's looking at running for President. But it is an opportunity for someone nationally to come into the state and keep Republicans energized at a critical time in our state," said veteran Granite State GOP strategist Mike Dennehy, who's an adviser to Perry's political action committee.

"As he has done over the last several months, he continues to go around the country talking about his record in Texas, how we need to bring that record, if it translates across America and in New Hampshire," Dennehy added.

It's a different story for the Democrats.

"Everything's going to hinge on what Hillary Clinton decides to do and she hasn't told us yet," Terry Shumaker told NH1.

Shumaker knows both Hillary and former President Bill Clinton quite well. The longtime Democratic strategist and former ambassador was New Hampshire co-chair for Bill Clinton's 1992 and 1996 campaigns and was on the steering committee for Hillary Clinton's 2008 nomination bid.

"I am confident we won't see her again until she makes her decision on whether she's going to run. I expect that will be sometime after the first of the year," Shumaker added.

Clinton headlined a major Democratic party rally last weekend, standing on the stage with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Gov. Maggie Hassan.

"It's really hard for me to express how grateful I am on behalf my husband and myself to the people of New Hampshire. Starting way back in 1991 you opened your homes and your hearts (applause) And in 2008 during darkest days of my campaign you lifted me up, you gave me my voice back, you taught me so much about grit and determination, and I will never forgot that. So my being here today is I want to thank the people of New Hampshire," Clinton said to applause from the crowd.

But the loudest moment during the event came when Shaheen asked the audience "are we ready for Hillary."

The crowd broke out with chants of "Hillary, Hillary, Hillary."

Martin O'Malley's also made multiple trips to the Granite State the past couple of months. The outgoing Democratic governor of Maryland is also considering a bid for his party's presidential nomination. So is Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who's seemed to cross the Connecticut River into New Hampshire just about every week since Labor Day.

While Perry's coming to New Hampshire Sunday and Monday, the heavy traffic isn't expected to begin until 2015.

After a grueling midterm campaign in the Granite State, with contests for governor, senator, both House seats, as well as the Executive Council and the entire state house up for grabs, it's time for a quick break.

"Everybody's going to take a short rest," Shumacker said.

"We have a two year election cycle here, so we're constantly in cycle here in New Hampshire, which means activists and leaders, they have to take a deep breath after a midterm like this. We're going to enjoy Thanksgiving, enjoy Christmas, enjoy New Year's," Merrill added. "But after the first of the year it's going to get very busy very quick."

And the first-in-the nation primary is going to be a little more special in 2016.

"This is the 100th year of the New Hampshire presidential primary. It's something a lot of people in New Hampshire are celebrating," Levesque said.


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