Former Trump campaign manager and high-profile political player Corey Lewandowski announced on New Year’s Eve that he will not be running in the New Hampshire GOP U.S. Senate primary in 2020 for a chance to take on incumbent Democrat Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.
“After much consideration, I have decided to forgo a campaign for the US Senate. While taking on a career politician from the Washington swamp is a tall order, I am certain I would have won,” Lewandowski said via Twitter. “My priorities remain my family and ensuring that @realDonaldTrump is re-elected POTUS. I am truly humbled by the outpouring of support I have received from people across New Hampshire and the country.”
In early December, Lewandowski said he’d made a decision and would announce it before the end of the year. His comments over the past months had led many to believe that Lewandowski was all but certain to enter the race. Instead, he now says he’ll back a GOP candidate challenging Shaheen.
“NH needs a US Senator who will put our citizens first and not illegal aliens; one who will support pro-growth policies to keep the Trump economy strong; One who will support strict constitutionalist judges; and one who will fight for our values, not those of Washington, DC. Accordingly, I will be making an endorsement in the Republican Primary for US Senate in the near future to ensure we defeat Jeanne Shaheen in 2020,” Lewandowski tweeted.
The Trump advisor was widely viewed as a virtual lock to win the NHGOP primary if he entered the race, thanks both to his ability to raise money and his close connections to the president. “I think he would be fantastic,” Trump said of Lewandowski before a New Hampshire rally in August. “I will say this — if he ran, he would be a great senator. He would be great for New Hampshire.”
The conventional wisdom is that the race for the GOP nomination will be a “Trump” primary–the candidate with the most support from Trump-supporting Republicans wins. Now that Lewandowski has bowed out, it’s an open question as to which of the three remaining candidates is most likely to own the “Trump” lane.
One of them, former New Hampshire Speaker of the House Bill O’Brien, was state chairman of the Ted Cruz 2016 presidential campaign and an outspoken opponent of Trump’s candidacy. He has since said he was wrong and “we are fortunate to have Donald Trump as president.”
O’Brien told NHJournal that Lewandowski “would have been, and someday may be, a great US senator from New Hampshire.
“Corey understands that New Hampshire can do much better. It is time for New Hampshire to have mainstream, bipartisan representation in the US Senate. We must support President Trump and his efforts to reform the judiciary, protect our borders and continue his economic successes. I look forward to providing this common-sense representation for New Hampshire,” O’Brien said.
Another NHGOP Senate primary candidate, Corky Messner, told NHJournal, “I’m confident that Corey made the best decision for his family and himself.
“I’m very happy that he will continue to be a fierce supporter of President Trump here in New Hampshire, as will I. My focus has been – and will continue to be – on defeating career politician Jeanne Shaheen next November. I look forward to working with Corey and the Trump Team in the months to come on ensuring the President’s re-election and removing Jeanne Shaheen from office.”
Retired Army Gen. Don Bolduc is also running in the GOP primary.
The big question about Lewandowski’s candidacy has always been what impact it would have on the rest of the ticket. Many New Hampshire Republicans are counting on the Trump effect — a surge in turnout by low-motivation, working-class residents who rarely vote but are enthusiastic about Trump — to help push their party over the top in 2020. Some political pros believed Lewandowski would help pull more of those voters to the polls.
Other NH Republicans feared that Lewandowski would simply amplify the downside of the Trump effect — turning off college-educated, suburban women — without any additional benefit.
What Republicans are now hoping for is the “have your cake and eat it, too” scenario: Trump at the top of the ticket turns out thousands of those traditionally non-voting Granite Staters without a significant suburban backlash, and the GOP wins four Electoral College votes while defeating an incumbent Democratic senator.
Is it likely? Perhaps not. But it’s not impossible, either.
“Corey may not be running, but President Donald J. Trump is still in this race and will build on his success with hard-working, blue-collar, Constitution-supporting voters in New Hampshire — many of them former Democrats,” Trump 2020 N.H. co-chair Fred Doucette told NHJournal.
“And the bad news for Jeanne Shaheen is that she won’t be able to use Corey for her opportunistic fundraising anymore. Now the true voice of the New Hampshire voters will be heard on November 3, 2020 when Trump wins New Hampshire and we unseat a do-nothing senator like Shaheen.”