On The Political Front: Dems Talk Gun Laws, Abortion Rights At Jefferson-Jackson Dinner

Nov 30, 2015

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton gestures while speaking at the at New Hampshire Democrats annual dinner in Manchester, N.H., Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015.
Credit AP Photo/Cheryl Senter

NHPR's Senior Political Reporter Josh Rogers joins Morning Edition most Monday mornings for "On the Political Front."

A big night for Democrats Sunday. The Jefferson Jackson Dinner was held in Manchester.  Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley all spoke. What did they say?

Mostly they articulated shared goals on core Democratic issues: things like raising the minimum wage, reducing the cost of college, increasing access to health care, including addiction treatment, while also going after Republicans.  Gun laws and abortion rights got some attention, too.

Were guns and abortion brought up in the context of the shootings at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado?

O’Malley, Sanders, and Clinton all mentioned the shooting, and cited it as proof that U.S. gun polices have to change. And they also defended Planned Parenthood, which most of the Republican candidates have said should be de-funded. Abortion rights has been a huge rallying cry for Democrats in the past few New Hampshire elections, and will likely be again. Hillary Clinton noted that the New Hampshire Executive Council voted against a state contract with Planned Parenthood. And with Republican Chris Sununu – who is pro-choice-- casting the decisive vote against the contract, expect it to come up in the governor’s race. It will also be prominent in the Hassan/Ayotte senate race. Democrats certainly think it will help them mobilize women to vote Democratic up and down the ticket. Right now they also see it as a way to go after Republicans.

The Colorado shootings are one news event that’s forcing candidates to react. The Paris attacks are, or course another. How much talk of ISIS was there Sunday night?

Some. Bernie Sanders tended to spend much of his remarks focusing on domestic policy, but he also told the crowd that the defeat of ISIS must be done primarily by Muslim countries. He said rich countries around the Persian Gulf need to participate more. Hillary Clinton, meanwhile said she will “do whatever it takes” to make sure the country is safe and strong. But most of the talk, as it has been all year long for Democrats, was on domestic issues. And it went over well with the party loyalists. The party itself came out OK too; apparently the dinner raised some $250,000.

On to the Republicans. Several are in the state Monday. One - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie - returns as the New Hampshire Union Leader’s candidate of choice.

Chris Christie
Credit Brady Carlson / NHPR

Yes. Sunday's front page made that official. It's been no secret that Christie was working hard to win the Union Leader’s support. And, according to Union Leader publisher Joe McQuaid, the Paris attacks, and national security issues helped Christie win the paper's backing.

Now, my recollection, is that the Union Leader endorsed Newt Gingrich last time.

Correct, and Gingrich finished 5th here. In the five previous primaries, the Union Leader endorsed candidate has won the Republican primary twice. So, make of all that what you will. But this endorsement has to be seen as good news for Christie, who has really put in a lot of time here, grinding it out in town hall meetings and courting  local officials.

Doing it the old fashioned way.

Yes. So add the backing of the UL to his hard work locally, and maybe Christie is due for a bit of a lift. And one thing that will be interesting to watch is how hard the paper goes after the other GOP candidates. That’s one thing about the Union Leader: it doesn’t simply endorse its pick, it also tends to highlight, bluntly, what it perceives as the shortcomings in the other candidates. That might not have made much difference four years ago, when Mitt Romney had a big local advantage. But with this year’s big field, where Donald Trump, now leads, and few voters appear to have made up their minds, the Union Leader endorsement may play a different role.  

I’d expect some in the GOP establishment are hoping for plenty of tart anti-Trump editorials.

Absolutely. And it's obvious some Republicans are worried the effect Trump could have on the party. State chairman Jennifer Horn has enraged some Republicans – some who back Trump, some who don’t –  with comments criticizing Trump. 

Jennifer Horn
Credit Allegra Boverman for NHPR

  She was quoted  in the Boston Globe, saying  “Shallow campaigns that depend on bombast and divisive rhetoric do not succeed in New Hampshire, and I don’t expect that they will now.”  Party chairs are supposed to be neutral. The neutrality requirement doesn’t go for past party chairs but Fergus Cullen, one of Horn’s predecessors, raised some eyebrows by actually trying to get Trump bounced from the GOP ballot by mounting a challenge, quickly rejected by the ballot law commission, on the grounds that Trump wasn’t a truly a Republican.

Well, Trump returns to New Hampshire Tuesday.

And Chris Christie and Marco Rubio are here Monday.