Ready Or Not, The 2020 N.H. Primary May Already Be Underway

Apr 27, 2017

Credit Marc Nozell via Flickr / Creative Commons / https://flic.kr/p/3MY97U

Is the 2020 New Hampshire primary already underway?

It may seem like it, with three former presidential candidates in the Granite State this week, including a visit Thursday from Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich.

On the Democratic side, former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley was here Sunday, and this weekend, former vice president Joe Biden will be the keynote speaker at a state Democratic Party fundraiser.

To put this all into some context, Boston Globe political reporter James Pindell joined NHPR's Morning Edition.

  What’s happening here? Are we seeing a head start on 2020?

I think so, and it’s not too early, believe it or not, to start seeing some people thinking about running for president and visiting the state – if it were a president in their second term. This is pretty unusual, in fact I think it is quite unprecedented to see a first-term president just 100 days in, literally, and having not one, not two, but three potential people coming to the state. And though if we’re being honest, while Martin O’Malley certainly has every reason to run for president if he wants to – he doesn’t have a job right now – Joe Biden may actually be genuine in helping the state Democratic Party in trying to raise some money and that may be what this is all about. And John Kasich may just be visiting the state to sell a book. But all three know the moment they come to New Hampshire, we're going to be having conversations on NHPR about them.

James Pindell

  As we said, Martin O’Malley was here on Sunday. He held a town hall and attended some Democratic fundraisers. His campaign never really took off. What is he up to?

Yeah, it never really did take off, and towards the end, he really put all of his eggs in his basket in Iowa. So if we’re being fair about that, he never really tried all that hard. In fact, he dropped out before the New Hampshire Primary after a poor showing in Iowa. I think Martin O’Malley in context makes a lot of sense. We’re going to have a lot of people run for president. We had 17 Republicans run for president last time. We could see upwards of 20 people running for president on the Democratic side. I’m not even joking. There’s no leader. Last time there weren’t many Democrats running because Hillary Clinton was out there and she was formidable and she was going to be very hard to beat in terms of the nomination. The Republicans didn’t have a very big name; Jeb Bush tried to come back from a long time away. This time, if you’re a Democrat and you have any ambition to ever run for president, yes, you’re facing an incumbent president, but you’re going to see a lot of people running.

And then you’ve got the older wing of the party. Joe Biden will be here Sunday speaking to New Hampshire Democrats. Is he a viable option for Democrats in 2020 or are we going to be looking at new talent?

Well, I think there’s a hunger in the party to look at new talent. We’re not seeing the fire in the belly from Joe Biden to run for president. Maybe he’s biding his time. The other problem with Joe is that he talks about how his son passed away as the reason he didn’t run for president last time, but the thing no one wants to say because it’s impolite is that he also has a problem raising national money. Now he’s the former vice president, but he was the current vice president when he was beginning to put together a team that was actually exploring a run for president. This is a party that has moved to the left, away from Joe Biden. It is now the party of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and other progressives around the country, and it’s not exactly Joe Biden’s party. And so as he’s putting together his academic centers at UPenn and Delaware, I just wonder if he’s looking to help out some Democrats, but is basically retired.

John Kasich
Credit Allegra Boverman for NHPR

  I did want to touch on John Kasich, who’s here as part of a book tour. He obviously spent a lot of time here leading up to the New Hampshire primary.

In interviews, he dismisses the idea that he would mount a challenge to President Trump in 2020. Should we believe him?

When I talk to folks very close to John Kasich, the answer is right now, you should believe him, but who knows. They think this situation is so unpredictable because it is unpredictable. He knows the moment he says he’s running for president, he’s putting himself out there and is going to get more scrutiny back home in Ohio. And he makes himself a target for Donald Trump who’s going to hit him every day. Right now, he wants to raise his profile. He’s still going to visit New Hampshire to sell some books, that’s a good thing. But I don’t think he really knows where he’s at. I think his mindset is he’s not running, but he’s not going to rule it out entirely.

Do you think there will be a Republican challenge to Trump?

I don’t know. I think that’s a very good question, which is amazing. You usually start the premise with of course not, it’s an incumbent president. But with Donald Trump, it seems all bets are off, and in truth, I don’t even know where the primary challenge would come from. Would it come from the right of the party or the left? We’re just going to have wait to see what happens after the midterms.