Even the most cynical observer has to give Democrats credit for sticking to their partisan guns. Now it’s time for phase two: Shooting themselves in the foot.
In Washington, the majority of congressional Democrats in Trump-friendly districts like Rep. Chris Pappas of New Hampshire are loyally following their party’s leadership and supporting impeachment, even as polls show independents and swing voters oppose it. Votes that anger the GOP base and turn off moderate independents aren’t great ways to hold onto GOP-leaning seats Democrats won in the #BlueWave last year.
And here in New Hampshire, Democrats who helped their party take control of the state legislature are likewise displaying their partisan loyalty, even in some of the most Republican districts. These state reps, from places like Wolfeboro, Bedford and Londonderry, are heading into a 2020 election cycle where a popular GOP governor, a red-hot economy and an incumbent president beloved by his base are likely to send Republican turnout surging.
And if that weren’t a great enough challenge, they now have a progressive–and very public — voting record to defend.
For example, earlier this year NHJournal identified the 10 Democrats in the most Republican-leaning NH House districts–many of them unapologetic progressives — and analyzed their voting records on issues like business taxes, payroll taxes and supporting “sanctuary cities.” The results were surprising: These “progressive pioneers” — people like Rep. Edith DesMarais in Wolfeboro (R +7) — overwhelmingly voted their left-leaning politics rather than making concessions to the Republican majority in their communities. Nine of the 10 didn’t cast a single bipartisan vote on these high-profile issues.
Then last week, Americans for Prosperity-New Hampshire (AFP-NH) released its 2019 legislative scorecard, tracking all legislators on 13 votes that impacted taxpayers, businesses and the economy. Among the votes were creating a new capital gains tax, opposing right-to-work legislation, and increasing energy costs for New Hampshire electricity customers.
And once again, these progressives toed the party line. Out of 130 potential pro-business/taxpayer votes these 10 Democrats could have cast, they cast just four. Four.
Seven of the 10 Democrats earned perfect scores of zero from AFP-NH. Not a single pro-business/taxpayer vote on their report card.
Two of the Democrats, Reps. Mombourquette and Woodbury, voted against HB 616 which, according to AFP-NH, “added a cost of living increase to the state retirement system. This would require increased payments from employers, resulting in property tax increases.”
And one Democrat, Rep. Charlie St. Clair of Laconia, crossed the aisle twice, but on two high-profile votes: Opposing one of the Democrats’ budget bills (HB-2) and opposing a paid family medical leave plan that would have created a payroll tax. All of which earned St. Clair an AFP-NH rating of just 22 percent. in an R+6 district. That makes him an overachiever.
Democrats dismiss AFP-NH as a pro-GOP organization, and perhaps they’re right. But these Democrats are in pro-GOP districts, so that’s not really a solution.
And then there’s the Sununu factor.
On Tuesday, Gov. Chris Sununu was trumpeting yet another round of good jobs numbers for New Hampshire, where more people are working than at any time in history. “Today’s jobs data follows earlier reports of positive economic indicators, which show that New Hampshire is the number one state for economic freedom, has the lowest poverty rate in the nation over the last three years, is the most popular place in the Northeast for millennials to locate themselves, has more people working than ever before, and is the number one state for taxpayer return on investment,” according to a statement from Gov. Sununu’s office.
These numbers are part of the reason Sununu is one of the most popular governors in the country. How would you like to be a Democrat running against that, and with a record of voting against Sununu’s economic proposals, too?
Democrats still have significant advantages: The state party has far more money, President Trump’s generally unpopular and whoever the Democrats nominate for president is almost certain to spend some money to lock down the state’s four electoral votes that Trump lost by just 2,500 votes in 2016. But expecting a freshman Democrat to win re-election in a GOP district with an incumbent GOP president at the top of the ticket–while defending a progressive voting record that would make Bernie Sanders proud–is a tough ask.
Perhaps these Democrats should have thought about that before Speaker Shurtleff gaveled them into session this year.