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Opinion: The GOP's Civil War in NH, and What it Means for Rick Perry

Saturday, September 17, 2011 - 09:45 PM

New Hampshire Republican Party Chairman Jack Kimball has been in a civil war with a significant part of the NH establishment Republicans. Kimball is a fervent Tea Party movement supporter.

The conflict also revolves around criticisms of his Chairmanship including fundraising, special elections losses, and staff changes. His views and practices clashed with the major GOP players in the state including U. S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, U.S. Reps. Charles Bass and Frank Guinta, New Hampshire Senate President Peter Bragdon and New Hampshire House Speaker William O’Brien. They were building a bonfire under him so he’d resign. He wouldn’t.

“It’s been widely reported that the Speaker, along with Jennifer Horn, visited me and asked me to resign," Kimball said in a press release. "At that same meeting, it was revealed to me that the RGA was prepared to cut a check for $100,000 to the NHGOP should I step down, and the federal delegation would contribute funds to the New Hampshire Republican Party should I resign as well. I won’t stand for that kind of deal-making – neither will the voters.”

On September 1 the party executive committee met and was expected fire him. He resigned instead.

This is an interesting example of the rift that the Tea Party is causing in almost every state. Its views are outside the orthodoxy of Republicans, and, although Tea Party followers are passionate they only represent a fraction of GOP partisans and voters.

More establishment Republicans are worried to death that the more extreme views, of the Tea Party will drive away moderates and scare Independents, who often vote Republican.

After resigning, Kimball promised: “I’m not going away. We’ll continue to fight outside of this. That’s my promise.”

That’s not good news for the non-Tea Party wing of the party because they wanted Kimball out of the way.

Rick Perry

A second reason why this story is very significant is that it allows us to gauge Texas Governor Rick Perry’s politics more precisely.

We know that the Republican Governors Association (RGA) offered up to $100,000to the New Hampshire GOP if Kimball quit. There is also some evidence that Rick Perry was instrumental in the RGA making that offer thereby suggesting that Perry is not 100% on board with the Tea Party.

Of course this would only be intelligent speculation if it weren’t for the fact that the Texas Tea Party has been warning Tea Partiers in other states that Perry is not the real thing and advising they not back Perry for President.

This adds to the cloak and dagger story and requires us to follow the shifting sands of GOP caucus and primary politics much more closely than we would normally do. It also suggests that the Ames Straw Poll, Iowa Caucuses, New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries are not the most significant events to monitor. It’s the guerrilla warfare going on within the GOP that is the most fascinating - and potentially most meaningful - to watch.

Steffen W. Schmidt, University Professor of Political Science and Public Policy (also Coastal Zone Management) at Iowa State University, affiliate Nova Oceanographic Center, author of 11 books, 40 years analyzing the Iowa Caucuses, Des Moines Register blogger, CNN en Español analyst and commentator and Associate Editor of Insider Iowa.

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