AMAC Exclusive – By Shane Harris
From supporting the war on American energy and Democrats’ pro-abortion radicalism to threatening her state’s “first in the nation” primary status, New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan has abandoned all pretense of the moderation which has long defined the Granite State’s political character. Now, Hassan is desperately trying to execute a centrist pivot ahead of November – but her voting record and Democrats’ major brand issues could prove too much to overcome.
While Hassan has been steadily inching leftward since she was first elected to the Senate in 2016, that slide has become an all-out tumble in recent years, as the former governor has embraced one progressive policy after another. This became all too clear last fall when Hassan backed H.R.-1, the so-called “For the People Act,” which, among other disastrous provisions undermining election security, would have threatened New Hampshire’s sacrosanct first in the nation primary. For New Hampshire voters who understand the importance of that political tradition, Hassan’s position on H.R.-1 was perhaps a wake up about the dangers of progressive policies for the country in general and New Hampshire specifically – and a massive political liability for Hassan herself.
Hassan has also supported a number of other progressive policies which are hopelessly out of step with ordinary voters, ranging from support for ending the filibuster to a tacit endorsement of packing the Supreme Court (although Hassan quickly backtracked on the position once it became clear she was the only member of New Hampshire’s Congressional delegation to support expanding the Court). Following the leaking of a draft Supreme Court decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade, Hassan also voted in favor of legislation that would have legalized abortion up until the moment of birth in all 50 states, again taking the side of radicals over more moderate policies favored by a majority of voters.
But with Election Day just a few months away, Hassan has also attempted to strike a more conciliatory tone and pay lip service to addressing the slate of crises facing Americans. The reason why is clear: voters are none too happy with the current direction of the country, and they blame Democrats for it. According to a University of New Hampshire poll conducted last month, Hassan is sitting at just 35% approval in New Hampshire, below even Joe Biden’s approval nationally and a marked declined from a St. Anslem poll in March. Hassan’s favorability rating has also shown a steady decline since she was elected to the Senate in 2016, while her unfavourability rating has seen a corresponding increase and now sits at 51%. As Democrats’ brand struggles nationally, Hassan’s own fortunes in New Hampshire show that voters clearly associate her with the party’s failed policies.
Just how desperate Hassan is to both distance herself from Democrats’ disastrous policies and give off the appearance of moderation became clear late last month when she traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border and feigned sudden concern about the ongoing crisis there. Despite voting to reject funding for Trump’s border wall in 2019, Hassan is now calling for more border wall construction. Despite failing to vote for numerous border security measures throughout her nearly six years in the Senate, Hassan is now urging the Biden administration to keep Title 42 in place and send more resources to address the record surge in illegal crossings. While the need for border security hasn’t changed, it’s clear the politics have – at the last possible moment, Hassan is finally forced to care about the concerns of voters in New Hampshire rather than radical open border zealots in Washington, D.C.
Ironically, this desperate ploy appears to have done more to harm Hassan with her base of progressive voters than convince any critical swing voters to support her. One pro-immigration leader in New Hampshire told Politico last month that she was considering leaving her ballot blank for U.S. Senate this fall and was encouraging others to do the same. Another New Hampshire Democrat accused Hassan of trying to “out-Republican Republicans.” Meanwhile, Hassan’s standing with Independents doesn’t seem to have benefitted, and she stands little chance of peeling off any Republican voters in today’s polarized political climate.
It’s difficult to see Hassan faring much better on any other issues that matter to voters and on which she needs to separate herself from Democrats’ sullied reputation. One of the consequences of progressives like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Bernie Sanders demanding votes on legislation that is ultimately doomed to fail is that incumbents who aren’t from deep blue districts are forced to take politically harmful votes on policies that stand no chance of ever becoming law – simply opening them up to attacks from both moderate challengers and Republican opponents.
Currently, Hassan’s only saving grace is that Republicans have not managed to field a strong candidate to oppose her in November. With the primary not scheduled until September 13, the Republicans who are running will have to devote at least some of their attention to attacking each other rather than her. But ultimately, that still may prove insufficient to rescue Hassan from her largely self-inflicted electoral crisis.
Shane Harris is a writer and political consultant from Southwest Ohio. You can follow him on Twitter @Shane_Harris_