New Hampshire's National Shame

Recently, former New Hampshire Senator Bob Smith wrote a letter to the Kerry campaign, endorsing Kerry for president. In this press release, Smith got top billing of Republicans backing Kerry. Many people recall Smith as one of the most conservative members of the Senate, and might be surprised at his endorsing Kerry.

But here in Cow Hampshire, we know the real story.

Bob Smith was a history teacher with ambitions back in the early 80’s, when he fell under the scrutiny of the Union Leader, New Hampshire’s largest, only state-wide (and very right-wing) newspaper. They backed him for Congress in ’82, unsuccessfully, then got him elected in ’84. He went on to the Senate in ’90. While in Washington, he quickly established himself as an extreme right-winger, a taller but less bright version of Newt Gingrich.

In his second term in the Senate, though, “Buffalo Bob” (as some of us called him) got a bit full of himself. He decided to run for President in 1999, and ran fervently, seeking the Christian Right backing for the Republican nomination. His campaign quickly became the joke many of us knew it was going to be, and he eventually pulled the plug on it. However, his monumental pride was wounded. He quit the Republican party in a fit of pique and obtained the nomination of the ultra-conservative U.S. Taxpayers Partry. When it became obvious to even him that that was going nowhere, he quit them and decided to run as an independent. Finally, in October of 1999, he gave up entirely and endorsed George W. Bush, rejoining the Republican party.

But New Hampshire Republicans didn’t forget his disloyalty. The Granite State GOP has always been divided into two factions, which I call the Arrogant Rich and the Arrogant Stupid (“Plutocrats” and “Idealogues” might be more accurate, but I like my own labels.). Smith had been the leader of the Arrogant Stupid, but his base was stung by his betrayal. The Arrogant Rich (led by Judd Gregg, former tax lawyer and son of a governor, who has spent over 30 years on the public payroll) saw an opportunity to take him down. Popular Congressman John E. Sununu (son of former governor and Bush 41 Chief of Staff, later CNN host John Sununu) took on Smith in the 2002 Senatorial primary, and smacked him down severely.

Smith, crushed by his defeat, limped off to Florida to lick his wounds. He went to work in real estate, briefly flirted with a run for Senator. But he carries his grudges. He still remembers his loss to George Bush in the 2000 primary campaign, and now he sees a chance to score a little payback. But even his old puppet masters at the Union Leader have abandoned him.

Many of us in New Hampshire have long memories, too, Buffalo Bob. Florida is welcome to keep you.

J.

(Thanks to Wikipedia for refreshing my poor memory on the finer details.)

(Author’s note: as always, this is all personal opinion. Take it for what it’s worth — which is exactly what you paid for it.)

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