- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Corey Lewandowski has been consuming most of the oxygen in the Republican Senate race in New Hampshire — and he’s not even a candidate yet.

The smash-mouth political operative emerged from obscurity when he signed on as President Trump’s 2016 campaign manager, and the gamble has paid off financially and now perhaps politically.

Despite getting fired from the campaign and taking some darts from the more traditional wing of the GOP, Mr. Lewandowski’s loyalty to Mr. Trump has earned him a rarefied status among the president’s followers and given him a national profile that analysis say could excite voters and help him rake in tons of money for a bid against Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

“In a Trump-dominated Republican Party, the only thing better than having the last name of Trump would be having the last name of Lewandowski,” said Neil Levesque, executive director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College.

During a break in his contentious hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, Mr. Lewandowski tweeted out the link to a new website aimed at boosting his Senate hopes. It prominently features a Mr. Trump quote praising Mr. Lewandowski.

Michael Dennehy, a New Hampshire-based Republican strategist, said Mr. Lewandowski “truly is a mini-me of Donald Trump.”

Mr. Lewandowski was back in the middle of the political action Tuesday on Capitol Hill, where he testified before the House Judiciary Committee over potential obstruction of justice by Mr. Trump.

The showdown between Mr. Lewandowski and congressional Democrats provided the pugnacious 45-year-old with a massive stage to flash the trademark swagger and brash and bombastic style that — much like Mr. Trump — has made him among the most polarizing of political figures.

Former New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg drove home that point last month when he told the Manchester Union Leader, the state’s largest newspaper, that Mr. Lewandowski is a “thug” and said it would be an “outrage” if he runs.

Corey has both strong supporters and detractors here in New Hampshire,” said Stephen Duprey, a member of the Republican National Committee from New Hampshire.

“If he were to get into the race with the president’s support, he would be very difficult to beat in a primary and he would be a formidable opponent for Sen. Shaheen,” he said.

Early polls have shown that Mr. Lewandowski would enter the GOP primary race with a double-digit lead over his rivals: Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc, former state House Speaker Bill O’Brien, and Bryant “Corky” Messner.

Mr. Lewandowski has been test driving a possible campaign message: casting Ms. Shaheen as a radical liberal and weak on immigration and attacking her for opposing Mr. Trump’s Supreme court picks.

He also is touting his connections with the White House and his fundraising prowess.

But whether he runs, Mrs. Shaheen still is favored to win reelection.

The 72-year-old showed her political strength in 2014 when she won reelection even as Republicans flipped control of the Senate.

Polls show she has a double-digit lead over Mr. Lewandowski in a hypothetical match-up and had over $5 million in the bank at the end of June.

Mr. Lewandowski, though, is likely to have a secret weapon in Mr. Trump, who praised him at a New Hampshire rally last month, saying he would make a “fantastic” senator.

Other Republicans shutter at the prospect.

Corey is unfit for public office,” said former New Hampshire GOP Chairman Fergus Cullen.

Mr. Cullen said he doesn’t understand why Mr. Lewandowski would want to risk denting his image in a high-profile Senate race.

“Why would he put that gravy train at risk by running for Senate?” he said. “He is cashing in right now.”

Mr. Dennehy said it is clear the Republican establishment believes Mr. Lewandowski has no place in electoral politics, while allies of New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu are concerned that he could be a drag on the state’s entire GOP ticket. (Mr. Sununu’s older brother, John E. Sununu, held the Senate seat until Mrs. Shaheen defeated him in 2008.)

“Then there are those who believe that Lewandowski could actually help the Republican ticket if he is the nominee by bringing more money into the state for Republicans, and contrasting himself to Shaheen in a way that has never been done before,” Mr. Dennehy said.

Mr. Dennehy said he’s warming to the idea of Mr. Lewandowski running, saying he could raise an “obscene” amount of money through his ties to Mr. Trump and likely would take the fight to Mrs. Shaheen in ways that others might consider off limits.

Mr. Trump’s first victory in the 2016 Republican presidential primary came in New Hampshire.

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, however, won the state in the general election, and polls show the president’s job approval rating is underwater in the state.

Raymond Buckley, chairman of the New Hampshire Democrats, said Mr. Lewandowski is another Republican who is wrong on the issues.

Lewandowski is distinguished only because he has spent the past three years in Washington selling access to the White House to bad actors, including foreign interests,” Mr. Buckley said. “That’s why New Hampshire Republicans are doing everything they can to stop him from running, and his primary opponents are calling him out for being a Washington lobbyist.”

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