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Looking back on 2013



Illustration by Peter Noonan

In December we look back on things we want to remember from the previous year (Red Sox in the World Series) and the things we want to forget (the Boston Marathon bombings). Leaving these specific moments, there were three political trends in New Hampshire in 2013 worthy of recall.

First, we saw that politicians in Concord work together better than they do in Washington where Republicans and Democrats disagreed so much in 2013 it led to a 16-day government shutdown. Congress hasn’t even passed a single piece of the budget in over three years.

In Concord, we saw the opposite. Leaders from both parties disagreed strongly on a number of matters, but found compromise. For example, the two-year state budget proposed by Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan was amended and eventually passed unanimously in a Senate with a 13 to 11 Republican majority and became law. Secondly, there were deep differences in the state about if and how to implement a part of Obamacare that would expand free healthcare to poor residents. When leaders were at a stalemate, they formed a bipartisan commission that unanimously agreed on final principles. Obamacare in Washington led to lot of yelling and a government shutdown, but in Concord the process was very wonky, boring and cordial.

"First, we saw that politicians in Concord work together better than they do in Washington."

The second major issue playing out in 2013 was the internal conversation among Republicans, nationally, on finding a way forward for their party. In 2013, the Republican Party not only had to ask why they lost the 2012 campaign, but also the 2008 race and they still need to figure out what to do about a formidable challenger like Democrat Hillary Clinton if she decides to run for president in 2016.

In the spring, the Republican National Committeeman Reince Priebus laid out a path calling for more moderation, particularly on immigration and social issues. Priebus visited New Hampshire to talk about the plan. No one listened. The split among the establishment and the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party played out all year and took some twists. During the government shutdown New Hampshire US Sen. Kelly Ayotte firmly sided with the establishment, even though she received the endorsement of Tea Party-affiliated Sarah Palin three years ago.

Where the Republican Party ends up won’t be decided in 2014. Such large national conversations will largely take place in the next presidential primary and it’s clear that potential candidates are already eager to visit New Hampshire which points to the third memorable trend of 2013.

Having potential candidates visit so early and so often to New Hampshire is a phenomenon of the last 20 years. Prior to that candidates would make their first trip to the state a few months before the primary. Now they make their first trip at least a few years before. If they don’t start showing up, as happened in 2009, the state’s politicos get worried that other states might matter more to the process. They have no reason to worry now, however, given that in 2013 already a half-dozen potential candidates have visited the state, some more than once.

Even in what’s considered an “off-year” with no major elections, 2013 was still a very busy and memorable time in New Hampshire politics. 

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