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Mar 7, 2016 10:42 PM

Steinhauser: Rubens tells NH1 News he's conservative alternative to Ayotte, says Senate should 'absolutely' vote on potential Obama SCOTUS nominee

NH1 News Political Director

CONCORD – Jim Rubens says if he were in the U.S. Senate right now, he’d “absolutely” meet with anyone President Barack Obama nominates to the Supreme Court because “the job of being a United States senator is to be brave and take tough votes.”

Rubens, who’s launched a primary challenge against Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte, made his comments in a one-on-one interview with NH1 News on Monday.

Ayotte has refused to meet with anyone the President nominates to succeed the late Antonin Scalia, the conservative Supreme Court justice who died un-expectantly last month. Ayotte, along with most other Republican senators, supports Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s position that the next president, rather than Obama, should nominate a person to fill the high court vacancy.

But Rubens disagrees, telling NH1 News “I think the Senate ought to be responsible. The President of the United States has the authority under the Constitution to propose a nominee. And the Senate ought to be brave enough, and I understand it’s going to be uncomfortable for members of the United States Senate to contemplate a nominee. It’s going to be politically tough. But if you’re going to become a United States senator and serve in office you’ve got to take tough votes.”

Asked if he were in the Senate right now, would he give the President’s nominee a fair hearing, Rubens shot back “absolutely.”

“But I would warn the President up front ‘if you give us a nominee that doesn’t believe in the Constitution that nominee is dead on arrival’,” he added.

Rubens OK with Trump at top of ticket

Rubens isn’t dancing around the likelihood of having Donald Trump as his party’s presidential nominee. He said he’s already indicated he’d back Trump as GOP nominee.

While he takes issue with many things Trump’s said, Rubens added that real estate mogul turned presidential candidate is “representing part of what Americans want. And what I think he also represents is the failure of my party and the Democratic party to put forward candidates to represent the American people, to solve the problems the American people want resolved.”

That differs from Ayotte, who told NH1 News last week that “I plan support the Republican nominee. However I’m going to watch to see how this process plays out.”

Rubens spoke with NH1 News on Monday, a couple of days after he announced his bid to primary challenge Ayotte. Rubens is a former state senator who in 2014 who lost to former Sen. Scott Brown but narrowly edged out former Sen. Bob Smith in a three way primary battle for the Republican nomination to face off against Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

Rubens and Smith split the conservative vote in 2014, but he says that won’t happen this time around.

“It demoralized Bob Smith’s supporters. It demoralized my supporters, because we could see we were divided. That mistake is not being made this time,” he said.

Rubens added that this time around “there’s a clear agreement there should be a single person. I’m that candidate.”

Rubens explained that “we need a candidate…to bring all of the parts of the Republican party back together again so we can win. And not only that, I can bring in folks that ordinarily don’t vote for Republicans.”

Are conservatives on board with Rubens?

But Jack Kimball, a former New Hampshire GOP chairman who made a bid for the 2010 Republican gubernatorial nomination, isn’t giving Rubens his support.

Kimball, who managed Smith’s 2014 Senate campaign, said at this stage he’s “not supporting anybody.”

Kimball added that even though “Jim and I are civil to each other… I can’t really support him.”

He’s “not a conservative option,” Kimball added.

Michael Dennehy, a veteran Concord based GOP consultant, said “Rubens isn't a movement conservative. He's more of libertarian. And he'll certainly get some support from the liberty minded Republicans but whether he gets that movement conservative support is still a question.”

Rubens was quick to criticize Ayotte, saying “she’s made horrible votes year after year so the conservative base, the anti-establishment base, has simply abandoned her.”

“We’re looking at what Kelly Ayotte has done. We’re seeing her seeing her breaking her sworn promise not to vote for amnesty, and she voted for the Gang of Eight amnesty bill, Rubens charged.

“She promised to be a fiscal conservative and in just the last 16 months she’s voted to add 1.5 trillion, that’s trillion with a t, dollars to the national debt. That’s not fiscal conservatism,” he added.

“What caps it off for me, what really clinched it for me is her becoming such a big cheerleader for Hillary Clinton’s failed endless national building wars. These wars have not worked. ISIS is now operational in eight countries around the world and Americans are less safe,” Rubens continued.

While Kimball isn’t supporting Rubens, he does agree with him on Ayotte.

“She’s brought a primary challenge on herself,” Kimball told NH1 News. “Check her voting record. it’s worse than John McCain’s”

Ayotte campaign manager Jon Kohan told NH1 News that “Kelly's deep grassroots support is backed by a town by town network of activists across the state. She has a strong conservative record of
delivering results for New Hampshire and she will continue to carry that message to every corner of the state in the months to come.”

Ayotte’s facing off against Democratic governor Maggie Hassan in a Senate race that is shaping up to be one of the most high profile, expensive and negative contests in the country. And the outcome of the election could determine whether the GOP keeps control of the Senate in 2017.

Now Ayotte has to also keep an eye on Rubens.

“No doubt about it, Jim Rubens will be a thorn in Kelly Ayotte's side. And it's something that she does not want when she's facing a stiff challenge from the incumbent governor,” said Dennehy, who was a top adviser to Sen. John McCain’s 2000 and 2008 presidential campaign and who was Rick Perry’s top New Hampshire adviser last year as the former Texas governor ran for the GOP nomination before dropping out.

But Dennehy added that for Kimball, “it’s a huge uphill battle.”

David Carney agrees.

The former longtime Perry political adviser who’s now leading a pro-Ayotte super PACs efforts told NH1 News that “Jim is a decent guy but he continues to tilt at windmills and will have a very steep hill to climb. Perennial candidates tend to wan in support each cycle the run and discuss running.”

State and national Democrats highlighted Rubens’ announcement and some of his critical comments directed at Ayotte. Asked by NH1 News if he’s playing into the Democrats hands, Rubens said no, adding that the Democrats “don’t understand that the base has abandoned her and the base will not do lesser of two evils anymore.”

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