In a new television ad by Mitt Romney’s campaign, President Barack Obama is shown talking to a New Hampshire audience saying, “If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.”
The problem is that Obama said those words in 2008 and was quoting then-presidential opponent John McCain’s campaign. Because it appears to be out of context, the Romney campaign, which hasn’t backed down on the ad, has taken some heat.
The state Democratic party is ready and willing to hit back when it sees a discrepancy. And it did so with a letter signed by more than 30 state Democratic lawmakers denouncing Romney’s ad.
Maybe you missed it in the midst of all the Republican presidential candidates’ visits to the state, as well as all of the headlines coming out of the GOP-led House and Senate in New Hampshire, but the Democratic movement is alive and well in the Granite State.
And Democratic officials are happy to point out the contrast between Democrats and GOP candidates and officials. Democratic efforts seem to have ramped up in recent weeks as the New Hampshire primary season nears the home stretch.
“I think there’s more stuff happening in general for the primary, with Republicans crisscrossing the state,” said Holly Shulman, communications director for the state Democratic party. “And we’ve seen them take more positions, each of them, and so I think part of it is just continuing to hold them accountable and finding out where they stand.”
Jon Huntsman, usually seen as the most moderate of the GOP candidates, was quoted as referring to the Environmental Protection Agency’s “regulatory reign of terror.” Ron Paul talked about eliminating FEMA around the time of Hurricane Irene. Those are the types of things the state Democratic party is going to be all over, making the case that commentary like that doesn’t represent the view of the majority of the state.
On the presidential front, Democratic officials are saying the candidates are proposing plans and agendas that might work for corporations but not for middle-class Granite State families.
“I think Republicans are so focused on ending Medicare as we know it, on opposing pay roll tax cuts...they’ve made their message clear, and we can draw a large contrast with that, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Shulman said.
And while it’s Mitt Romney who is sitting atop the polls in New Hampshire, Democrats aren’t saving their wrath just for him.
“We think all of the candidates are serious candidates,” Shulman said. “We’re working to hold them all accountable.”
Hitting the extremes and the flip-floppers
For Democrats, naturally, the name of the game is pointing out extremism and inconsistency when the GOP demonstrates it. That’s not to say the Republican party isn’t ready to do the same thing, but there are, numbers-wise in office, fewer Democrats for the GOP to pay attention to.
“Some of them are taking multiple positions on issues,” Shulman said. “That’s what we’re really looking at. We have a frontrunner Republican candidate who can’t decide if he’s pro-choice or anti-choice, pro-gay rights or anti-gay rights. The only thing that is clear is that he is inconsistent on almost every issue.” (In case you missed it, she’s referring to Romney, who has historically garnered the flip-flopper label.)
The extremism argument is going to be a key one in New Hampshire. The state party, and soon Democratic candidates, will be beating that drum. They have to, particularly with the GOP holding such large majorities in the legislature. Democrats, if they want to be successful, have to make the case that Republican leadership has been extreme.
“They’ve already taken positions,” Shulman said. “All we’re doing is telling people about them. … We know what we stand for.”
Shulman sees the case for extremism being made in the positions taken by Republicans in the legislature and Republican presidential candidates.
“We have seen Republicans in the Statehouse make college more expensive, while making cigarettes less expensive,” Shulman said. “This is a case of mixed up priorities and we’ve seen it at all levels of the Republican government.”
A visit from the President
New Hampshire’s importance to President Barack Obama’s reelection hopes is unclear. His approval ratings here are particularly low. Of course, he won New Hampshire in 2008, so he obviously has support here. The question is whether or not he can get that base excited again.
“We were very excited to have the president in the state,” Shulman said. “He was campaigning for the American Jobs Act. That’s also an important contrast between Democrats and Republicans. He came here saying this is what we need to do to give tax relief to 30,000 New Hampshire small businesses. What is Kelly Ayotte, Frank Guinta, Charlie Bass, what are they thinking on this issue and why are they waiting? I think that is an important message and an important difference between Republicans and Democrats in this state.”
The president’s visit could also re-energize Democrats in New Hampshire. It’s been a tough few years following the 2008 election. Democrats have taken lots of hits. There hasn’t necessarily been a distinct and consistent rallying cry from Democrats. For one, Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, is not really a lead-the-party type of Democrat. He’s seen as particularly moderate and just isn’t comfortable beating the party line drum. He tries to remove partisanship as much as possible from his decision-making.
Perhaps Obama’s presence served as a point where Democrats can begin tapping into the support they had in 2006 and 2008, getting people excited about Obama and Democrats in general again.
Shulman expects, not surprisingly, that voters are going to be paying close attention to what candidates are saying about creating jobs and improving the economy. The state Democratic party will be looking at whether candidates are taking consistent positions that match up with what works for working families.
And when Republican candidates don’t take those positions, the state Democratic party will be ready to highlight that.