President Donald Trump is making no secret of which Republican he wants to see take on New Hampshire Democrat Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in 2020: His friend and former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski.
“I think he [Lewandowski] would be fantastic,” Trump said on a New Hampshire radio show Thursday morning. “He’d be a great senator for New Hampshire and for America. If he ran, I think he’d be hard to beat in New Hampshire. I think he’d be number one.”
Lewandowski has been talking for weeks about entering the GOP primary, and many GOP observers believe he will use Trump’s rally in Manchester to make his move. If he does run, Lewandowski will face retired brigadier general Donald Bolduc and former New Hampshire Speaker of the House Bill O’Brien. Lewandowski would also enter the race as the immediate frontrunner.
Trump also re-tweeted several tweets promoting Lewandowski’s possible Senate bid, including one reporting that the would-be candidate will be flying into Manchester with him on Air Force One. And adding insult to injury for the other GOP contenders, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel was on Fox News Thursday morning singing Lewandowski’s praises.
“Obviously, Corey is a star,” McDaniel said. “He’s going to do really well if he debates any Democrat, Shaheen. So, we’ll see what he decides.”
Some GOP strategists believe that Trump’s endorsement and Lewandowski’s long-standing relationship with the president mean the GOP U.S. Senate primary is over before it begins.
“Corey would be the prohibitive favorite in the primary if he were to get in and President Trump endorsed him,” former NHGOP state chairman Steve Duprey told NHJournal.
Others, however, believe that once you get past the Trump tweets and headlines, Lewandowski’s actually a weak candidate who could alienate as many primary voters as he attracts.
“Lewandowski is not a lock,” veteran NHGOP consultant Dave Carney told NHJournal. “Talking about running and actually running are two different things.” Carney, who has previously described a Lewandowski candidacy as a “joke” points out that Corey has some complicated political and financial issues to work out if he gets in the race, including his relationships with federal PACs and how he’s monetized his connections to the White House.
“He’s got to pay the bills,” Carney notes. And, as he told Politico: “Corey is a political hack. Political hacks make bad candidates generally.”
Both Bolduc and O’Brien insist they’re in the race for the long haul. When asked about Trump’s borderline endorsement of Lewandowski, O’Brien told NHJournal:
“I agree with Donald Trump’s position after he lost New Hampshire [to Hillary Clinton] in 2016: out-of-state voters shouldn’t determine New Hampshire elections.”