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Feb 15, 2016 10:28 PM

Steinhauser: With primary over, fight to keep N.H. first-in-the-nation begins anew

NH1 News Political Director

CONCORD – Steve Duprey admits “this is a hard long fight.”

And Duprey would know.

The Republican National Committeeman from New Hampshire and former two-time state GOP chairman is once again fighting to keep the Granite State’s first-in-the-nation primary status.

With the 2016 primary now in the rear view mirror, that battle now moves to the 2020 cycle.

On the Democratic side, there is no drama. New Hampshire’s position in the calendar is set.

Asked if the Granite State will remain the first primary, Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said “absolutely.”

“We actually for the first time in decades had no discussion of the states in our primary window,” the congresswoman from Florida told NH1 News in an interview on Feb. 5. “We know that these early primary states serve a really important purpose.”

When it comes to the GOP, it’s more complicated. A motion to end the carve out states (New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada) in the primary and caucus calendar was tabled at a RNC meeting last month. But the Granite State’s not out of the woods.

“Oh, it’s definitely going to come back,” Duprey told NH1 News.

“It will come up at the rules meeting this spring that we’ll have at the state chairmen meeting and it will come up at full RNC committee meetings in August right before Cleveland. Then it will come up at the Rules Committee of the convention and then before the 2,000 plus delegates at the convention. This is a hard long fight. Anybody who thinks our status is assured really doesn’t understand how this plays out. The parties are playing a stronger role. The parties have a right to control the calendar and each cycle they’ve been exercising more control,” Duprey added.

But Duprey’s being proactive.

“I invited about 25 members of the RNC to New Hampshire and the minute they stepped off the plane they’re taken care of, picked up in cars with drivers. We used Granite State ambassadors and St. Anselm College students to accompany these folks and we took them to the debate and Sunday and Monday in a very vigorous schedule they got to see different candidates and would watch them interact with voters. Then we’d have dinners for them and have speakers and every single one of them comes away saying they didn’t understand how engaged New Hampshire is in this and what good questions the average citizen asks,” Duprey explained.

“It’s all part of a lobbying effort. I’ve been doing this now, it’s my third time doing it, where you invite members of the RNC up who might not have first-hand expose,” he added.

Is the lobby effort paying dividends?

Duprey said yes, sharing that he invited “the committeeman from Mississippi and he said when he left ‘you know I’ve heard about New Hampshire, I’ve never seen it. You people do an amazing job. I’m in your camp.”

As for the argument by some analysts that Donald Trump’s large victory in the primary could hurt New Hampshire’s chances of keeping it’s first-in-the-nation status, Duprey takes umbrage.

“I don’t think that’s true at all. Democracy works. Donald Trump led the race in New Hampshire start to finish,” Duprey said. “He had an unorthodox appearance style but he had a ground game that was the same old fashioned knock on doors, call people ground game. I don’t think it impacts the primary one way or another. We had record high turnout. Every single candidate including Donald Trump said they could not believe how engaged the voters are up here.”

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