Former NH Speaker of the House Bill O’Brien is known as a politician who’s not afraid to mix things up, and that side of the Republican US Senate candidate was on full display at his announcement Tuesday night.

“Jeanne Shaheen has proven she is a captive of big government, pushing Washington control – she has left New Hampshire behind. Jeanne Shaheen no longer puts New Hampshire first,” O’Brien told the crowd at the American Legion in Manchester, NH.  The 100 or so supporters responded with chants that echoed a recent Donald Trump rally:

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“Send her home! Send her home!”

O’Brien isn’t wasting any time going after the incumbent Democratic Shaheen, nor is he shying away from supporting President Trump. Unlike some other New Hampshire Republicans, O’Brien is openly embracing Trump. In fact, while it’s common for candidates to predict their own victory, O’Brien told NHJournal he’s predicting a Trump win in New Hampshire, too.

 

Supporters gather for former NH Speaker of the House Bill O’Brien’s announcement that he’s entering the 2020 U.S. Senate race in Manchester, NH

 

“President Trump is going to win. This [New Hampshire] is a pickup here for them. It really is,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien, who backed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the 2016 GOP presidential primary, says “I’m glad Trump won,” and he compares himself to the president.

“That’s how I define myself as someone seeking office,” O’Brien said. “If I made a promise, I need to keep that promise.  When I was speaker, I said we would reduce spending and cover that structural deficit that we inherited,  $1 billion deficit. And we did that.

“President Trump keeps his promises, and so do I.”

Given that Trump’s approval rating in New Hampshire is -22 in the latest Morning Consult poll, embracing the GOP president may appear to be a mistake. But GOP veterans believe it’s a smart move in a contested primary.

“This is going to be a ‘Trump’ primary,” one GOP strategist told NHJournal. “Let the best Trump supporter win. What else can it be when 85 percent of [New Hampshire] Republicans support the president, and he’s the center of attention?”

Democrats are happy to play up the Trump angle, too. “New Hampshire voters remember Bill O’Brien was a mirror image of Donald Trump before Trump ever ran for President” NHDem state chair Ray Buckley said in a statement. “In office, they both made sabotaging the Affordable Care Act, defunding Planned Parenthood, and undermining voting rights their top priorities.”

O’Brien certainly has plenty of high-profile Trump supporters like Rep. Al Baldasaro backing his Senate bid. But the real question NHGOP insiders are asking is, as Rep. Ilhan Omar infamously said, “all about the Benjamins.” Running a competitive race against Sen. Shaheen will cost $10 million, most strategists and consultants agree. Can O’Brien raise the money?

“I had a successful track record of raising money when I was Speaker for the House Republican Victory PAC. We raised on the order of four or five times more than had ever been raised before,” O’Brien said. He also points out that he has connections with national Republicans from his work with people like Newt Gingrich and believes he can get national players to invest in this race.

O’Brien says he has a story to tell about Sen. Shaheen, from her position on the Green New Deal to her voting record since Trump took office.

“The National Federation of Independent Business says Shaheen voted against small businesses 80 percent of the time,” O’Brien told InsideSources. “New Hampshire has an economy of small businesses. And the fact that she would vote against those businesses 80 percent of the time tells us that she’s looking somewhere else when she’s supposed to be putting New Hampshire first.”

Retired Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc, who announced his candidacy in the GOP primary last month, sent NHJournal a statement welcoming O’Brien’s into the race:

“As I’ve traveled across my home state of New Hampshire this past month, I have heard from voters that they are ready for new leaders in Washington and they want a positive campaign that puts people over politics. That’s exactly the campaign I am going to run. While our backgrounds are different, I look forward to running an optimistic campaign about how we best can unite our Party and serve our Country,” Bolduc said.