President Donald Trump's Thursday night in Manchester, NH, is obviously about getting support for his reelection campaign.
But the state's establishment GOP class is worried because he will use the event to do something else: Talk up Corey Lewandowski's Senate bid 2020. The late bid
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Republican Gov. Chris Sununu has relayed concerns over Trump's controversial past campaign head of the party leadership. Rath, a former New Hampshire attorney general and a prominent Republican in the state, says he is "not a Corey fan." Former GOP Senator Judd Gregg took to the pages of New Hampshire's biggest newspaper to deny Lewandowski as a "thug."
And Dave Carney, a longtime New Hampshire-based strategist who has worked on a number of state Republican campaigns, called the idea of a Lewandowski candidacy a "joke."
"He adds nothing to the ticket and does not help the president or the ticket in any way," Carney said. "Corey is a political hack. Political hacks make bad candidates in general."
Tensions over Lewandowski rush out into the open , with the state's GOP establishment in the near-open revolt over Trump loyalist's future campaign, some expressing concern over his personal baggage, pointing to everything from his physical start in March 2016 with then-Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields to his cluttered property dispute with a neighbor .
And with the party pushing an already rising effort to set up two-year Democratic Senate Jeanne Shaheen, Carney and a Change in the swing state worries that he would do little to help the party expand its base beyond the group of voters that Trump is already expected to attract.
Older members of Trump's political team are not aware. They argue that Lewandowski – one of the president's strongest and most visible defenders – would bolster conservative energy and strengthen the coalition of blue collar voters that drove Trump's crucial primary 2016 win for the state.
And equally important, they claim that 45-year-old Lewandowski would draw attention and raise money for what has so far been considered second-level racing – and immediately put it on the national radar.
"If Corey Lewandowski decides to run, he would significantly shake up the momentum, attention and energy surrounding the US Senate race in the granite state," said Mike Biundo, a New Hampshire-based former Trump campaign assistant who has known Lewandowski for nearly two Decades.
Lewandowski pushed back on his usual Republican insults with Trumpian flourishing, saying that their "rhetoric and country club, false conservative values" have resulted in the party losing control of the state's two Senate seats.
"It's time to stop the so-called GOP & # 39; elites & # 39; and listening to the hard-working men and women that career politicians have failed, & # 39; added Lewandowski, who is expected to attend the presidential rally.
Trump employees admit they do not know what the famous unpredictable president will say about the Senate race on Thursday night.
While the White House has become aware of concerns about Lewandowski, the President has at times been willing to circumvent the party leadership's requests for political approval. The president broke with the party leadership when he endorsed accused childmaker Roy Moore during the 2017 Alabama Senate race and supported immigrant hair linebacker Kris Kobach over a sitting in the Kansas gubernatorial contest 2018. (Both men lost in the general election.)
Trump would deeply change the race if he were to wade. Former State Speaker Bill O & # 39; Brien has participated in the Republican contest, as has Don Bolduc, a retired brigadier general. But defeating the nationally-known Lewandowski would be a major obstacle – especially if he has the support of Trump, who has almost universal support among Republicans in the state.
Republicans on both sides of the divide have launched a campaign to oust Trump ahead of the rally. In a gambit aimed at securing presidential approval, David Bossie, an Lewandowski ally, released a toll day on Tuesday that showed he would be the main runner if he ran and Trump's support would strengthen his position.
The Bolduc campaign competes to meet the outlook. Assistant to the candidate this week, the Trump team presented their own survey results showing Lewandowski in a gloomy position. Only 15 percent of likely voters for the elections expressed a positive view of the former Trump campaign manager, and he's tracking Shaheen with double-digit numbers in a matchup, according to the survey. The survey also presents a much more competitive primary competition, with Lewandowski and Bolduc tied to 21 percent.
Lewandowski, who served as campaign manager at former New Hampshire since. Bob Smith's unsuccessful reelection campaign in 2002, first declared his interest in the Senate contest earlier this month. He has reached out to a number of older Republicans in the days since to talk about how the race could develop.
Greg Moore, who succeeded Lewandowski as the New Hampshire director for the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity, said he spoke with Lewandowski a little more than a week ago and gave the impression that Trump allies were leaning toward jumping in
"I wouldn't say it's a done deal, but he really seems to be heading in that direction," Moore said.
The president's team has taken a keen interest in Lewandowski's deliberations. After narrowly losing New Hampshire in 2016, the Trump campaign has launched an aggressive effort to win the state's four electoral votes. Those close to the president imagine Trump and Lewandowski running a synchronized campaign focusing on conservative and middle-class voters.
"I think Corey is a pretty powerful force in New Hampshire politics," said Joshua Whitehouse, a former state representative Lewandowski recruited for the Trump 2016 campaign. "I could see nothing but a positive effect on the whole vote."
But others argue that a Lewandowski bid could complicate the party's prospects up and down the ballot – including for Sununu, who faces a potentially competitive bid for reelection to 2020. As a Republican governor of a swing state, he has been forced to follow a sensitive line between appealing to the president's supporters while demonstrating his independence.
Rath argued that Lewandowski would not necessarily improve the party's outlook in the Senate race. He noted the state's long history of supporting independent-minded politicians and said the state is not looking for a senator to rubber-stamp the president.
"It just adds no value to what we are trying to do in New Hampshire," said Carney, who served as a long-time top adviser to Sununus's father, former Gov. John Sununu. "I'm sure it's a good ego boost for [Lewandowski‘s] friends and allies to promote this, but it doesn't help the president. It won't get him a single extra voice. It makes no sense at all. "
James Arkin contributed to this report.