FIRST PERSON | The announcement President Obama was coming back to New Hampshire was accompanied by the arrival of a heavy-hitter to serve as his surrogate. Congressman Chris Van Hollen, who served as Assistant Speaker under Nancy Pelosi and was a member of the deficit reduction committee, came to Portsmouth to stump for Carol Shea-Porter.
The two had been colleagues when Shea-Porter represented N.H.’s 1st Congressional District. Swept out of office in the Tea Party tidal wave of 2010, a recent Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee poll shows her ahead of Frank Guinta, who won her seat, 45 percent to 39 percent.
At the press conference I attended, the gentleman from Maryland proceeded to eviscerate the Ryan Budget as an unconscionable attack on the social safety net. Both he and Shea-Porter had served with Ryan and testified that his financial bromides are nothing but moonshine.
Van Hollen’s trip reveals the battle for the Granite State, where Mitt Romney has a summer home, is heating up. N.H. only has four Electoral College votes, but those four put George Bush over the top in 2000 with a little help from his friends on the Supreme Court. Al Gore lost N.H. by 7,211 votes.
Obama last visited N.H. at the end of June, when polls showed him with a 12-point lead. It’s now down to six, according to The Atlantic.
A Facebook friend who knows me as a Shea-Porter supporter arranged it so I could attend the press conference. I had never met Carol. As a veteran, I owe her a lot, not only for her rebuilding the Manchester veterans hospital that shamefully was left to rot under the watch of the previous Congressman, Republican Jeb Bradley, but for the help her office gave me in obtaining care.
I was able ask a question about the effects of the Ryan budget on veterans services. Carol and Chris explained that under the Ryan Budget, virtually 100 percent of discretionary spending would go to defense, meaning veterans services could not be expanded.
Chris Van Hollen was a revelation. His speech on the deleterious effects of what he called the “Romney-Ryan” budget and his defense of Obama’s Medicare policy were precise and effective. Affable and attractive, he had the upbeat aura of a born winner.
Van Hollen struck me as being made of presidential timber, and I would not be surprised if he throws his hat into the ring for the 2016 N.H. Presidential primary. The trip may well have been the first campaign event of the next presidential election.
After listening to him, I envisioned Van Hollen on the 2016 Democratic Presidential ticket. An image of him as Hillary Clinton’s running mate, their hands clasped together over their heads at that year’s convention, came to mind.
I was proud to have had Carol Shea-Porter as my representative in Congress and I was proud to finally meet her. Seeing Chris Van Hollen showing his solidarity and support for her was an extra bonus and a glimpse into the political future.