5 Things to Watch in NH Politics as We Head Toward 2018


5 Things to Watch in NH Politics as We Head Toward 2018

2018 promises to be an interesting and exciting year politically in New Hampshire.  Public Affairs campaigns that understand the political environment and look for ways to leverage opportunities or overcome the challenges of political trends are the most successful.     Here are five things to watch that will affect the political environment in Concord and throughout the state in 2018.

Medicaid Expansion The federal government has a problem with the state’s Medicaid expansion program, specifically the way it is funded by hospitals and insurers. Regardless of the outcome of the battle over Medicaid, the debate is going to suck up a lot of the oxygen in the State House.   It would be wise for anyone playing in the legislative arena to start thinking about how they are going to maneuver around this 800-pound gorilla, both from a lobbying and public relations viewpoint.

Governor’s Agenda The GOP has only controlled the corner office for two years out of the past two decades prior to the election of Governor Chris Sununu.  This is important because the Governor’s office can set and control much of the public agenda in terms of what issues are talked about and how they are talked about.  As Governor Sununu nears the end of his first year in office, perhaps his two greatest accomplishments, thus far, have been the enactment of full-time kindergarten and passing a budget with no new fees or taxes.   Whatever policy platforms the Governor’s office promotes in 2018, will help to determine the priorities of the Republican –led legislature, and ultimately will affect dozens of other public policy initiatives.   It is often prudent to tie legislative initiatives to the Governor’s agenda, and often that requires a level of creativity.

GOP Unity The Republican Party holds a clear majority in both legislative bodies but that doesn’t mean it is necessarily united when it comes to policy issues.   House Speaker Jasper and Senate President Chuck Morse will have their own policy agendas separate from the Governor.  They also have to manage the own factions in the GOP, particularly the Speaker.   Creating coalitions from members of the Liberty Caucus, Free Staters, Libertarians, moderate and conservative Republicans is no easy task given their disparate views.   The leadership was able to do it to pass a budget, but can they continue to coalesce around issues other than tax and spend issues?

Democratic Gubernatorial Candidates The names surfacing as potential candidates in the Democratic Gubernatorial Primary election offer up candidates of different backgrounds, styles and agendas.   As the primary election begins to heat up in early 2018,  the leading democratic candidates will certainly begin to shape the democratic policy agenda, and the Republican’s response to that agenda.

Trump Effect Love him or hate him, President Trump will certainly be a significant factor during 2018.    President Trump could be a positive factor if the economy, job growth and stock market continue to be positive.  This would strengthen the hand of the state’s GOP and dictate the direction of legislative coalitions and the ultimate success or rejection of public policy initiatives.   On the other hand, President Trump’s persona coupled with an economic downturn or military conflict could be disastrous for the GOP, which would have similar legislative consequences.   New Hampshire politics, and by association public policy, is not immune from the mood of the nation.   2018 will be a pivotal year for Trump’s presidency and local public affairs efforts need to factor in national trends.