Primary Source: Bennet banks on NH

  • John P. Gregg. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/11/2019 10:24:19 PM
Modified: 12/11/2019 10:24:10 PM

High-profile candidates who attracted droves of social media attention — think Kamala Harris and Beto O’Rourke — have dropped out of the Democratic presidential race, but some lesser-known moderates keep plodding along.

In fact, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., last week started holding what he said will be 50 town halls across New Hampshire before the Feb. 11 primary and has done a dozen already, making the argument that he can run and win in critical swing states.

It comes as Bennet has failed to qualify for recent debates and is barely registering in state and national polls. But the focus on New Hampshire follows on the strategy of then-Sen. Gary Hart, D-Colo., who defeated former Vice President Walter Mondale in the Granite State primary in a surprise 1984 upset, fueled in part by support from independents. Appropriately enough, Hart has endorsed Bennet this cycle, and that’s not the only support Bennet is banking on.

“I really believe New Hampshire has not made its mind up. I think its mind is wide open,” the 55-year-old Bennet said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “People are really interested in who can beat Donald Trump. That’s what they are trying to figure out.”

A former Denver school superintendent who was editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal while in law school, Bennet gently suggested that the top tier of Democrats, who include septuagenarians Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren, may either have trouble winning purple states against Trump or may represent the past more than the future.

“I think that Americans are also looking for a new generation of leadership, and I’m not sure that is as visible in the leading candidates as it should be,” Bennet said.

Bennet has won two Senate elections in Colorado, where Democrats, Republicans and independents are split evenly, and he has been pushing for a public health insurance option to augment the Affordable Care Act for almost a decade.

He said his proposed “Medicare X” plan is more palatable, and affordable, than the Medicare for All proposal that Warren and Sanders have championed, and he noted that most of the 40 Democrats who flipped Republican seats in the House in 2018 backed a public option.

An advocate of combating climate change, in part by paying farmers and ranchers to sequester carbon and increase forestland, Bennet also said it’s a “bad thing for democracy not to have shared prosperity.”

To that end, he would expand the child tax credit to as much as $300 per month per child; expand the earned income tax credit to up to $3,000 per worker without children; enact paid family leave; and boost the minimum wage to $15 in high-cost cities, while also recognizing that not every part of the country has an economy that can support such income levels.

And, Bennet said pointedly, the effort to defeat Trump and Republicans who control the Senate can’t be done through “empty promises of free stuff.”

“This election can’t just be about galvanizing the Democratic base. We have got to galvanize the Democratic base and win back some of the 9 million people who voted twice for Barack Obama and once for Donald Trump,” Bennet said.

“We are going to need independent voters to win, and I’m going to need independent voters to do well in New Hampshire,” added Bennet, who indicated that he is prepared to vote to convict Trump in a Senate impeachment trial if the president continues to “stonewall” efforts to investigate his efforts to pressure Ukraine’s president.

Meanwhile, another moderate still in the race, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., launched a 30-second ad targeting the power of “big pharmaceutical companies” that will run in New Hampshire.

Odds and ends

■ New Hampshire Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andru Volinsky this week released a list of more than 100 endorsers who have held elected office, including former state Sens. Clifton Below, of Lebanon, and Peter Burling, of Cornish; sitting state Reps. Linda Tanner, D-Sunapee, George Sykes, D-Lebanon, and Gary Merchant, D-Claremont; and former U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter.

■ U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., will attend a fundraiser for her 2020 reelection bid next Tuesday at the Hanover home of Barbara and Dick Couch, the Hypertherm power couple.

■ Norwich resident Rebecca Holcombe, former secretary of education in Vermont, has hired a new campaign manager in her Democratic campaign for Vermont governor. Cameron Russell, who grew up in Addison County, previously served as campaign manager in Democrat Christine Hallquist’s 2018 campaign for governor.

■ Vermont Gov. Phil Scott will hold his weekly news conference Friday at the Brownsville Butcher & Pantry, part of an effort to highlight economic revitalization efforts in the West Windsor village.

■ U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders won the endorsement last week of the New Hampshire American Postal Workers Union. Sanders will campaign in Manchester and Nashua on Friday with U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.

■ U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., met with officials at Sunapee Middle/High School last week to discuss their efforts to stymie a “ransomware” attack. School officials had run weekly data backups and were able to restore their systems without paying the hackers.

■ Former Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Wednesday tweeted that impeachment is about more than Trump. “It’s also about future presidents. The GOP should ask: Would Ronald Reagan have called up a nation in trouble — who’d been invaded by Russia — and offered military aid in exchange for investigating his political opponent?”

John P. Gregg can be reached at

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