When President Donald Trump rallies support for his 2020 reelection campaign in New Hampshire tonight, Corey Lewandowski will be sitting in the front row – literally! – cheering his old boss on.
Lewandowski, who served as Trump’s campaign manager until he was fired from that job in the summer of 2016, is now reportedly considering a run against Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire in 2020 and is hoping his closeness to the President will give him a leg up.
Trump is doing his part – even before arriving in the state on Thursday. “I will say this – if he ran, he would be a great senator,” Trump told a local radio station on the eve of the trip. “If he ran and won, he’d be a great senator. He would be great for New Hampshire. He’d be great for the country. He’s got a tremendous drive. … If he ran, I think he’d be hard to beat in New Hampshire.”
That’s not, uh, well, true. In fact, there’s very little in Lewandowski’s background to suggest that he would be “hard to beat.”
Lewandowski has run for office only once before – for state house in Massachusetts when he was in college – a race he lost. Prior to being plucked by Trump to serve as campaign manager in 2016, Lewandowski was widely considered a B- or C-level political operative even within his own state. (He was working for Americans for Prosperity, a Koch brothers-aligned group at the time.)
If Lewandowski is known for anything during his political career, it’s controversy. In 1999, while working for then-Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio, he reportedly brought a handgun into a House office building and was charged with a misdemeanor. Lewandowski said he had accidentally mixed up his bags.
During Trump’s 2016 bid, Lewandowski repeatedly found himself at the center of firestorms. He was accused of battery by former Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields, who said Lewandowski had yanked her arm at a Trump rally in Florida. (Local prosecutors decided against pursuing the charge against Lewandowski.) Soon after that, Lewandowski was apparently caught on camera at an Arizona rally grabbing the collar of a protester, which he denied doing.
Those incidents are a big reason why lots of GOP operatives in New Hampshire are very skeptical about Lewandowski as their 2020 nominee. As Politico’s Alex Isenstadt wrote this week:
“Republican Gov. Chris Sununu has relayed concerns about Trump’s controversial former campaign manager to party leadership. Tom Rath, a former New Hampshire attorney general and a prominent Republican in the state, says he’s ‘not a Corey fan.’ Former GOP Sen. Judd Gregg took to the pages of New Hampshire’s biggest newspaper to deride Lewandowski as a ‘thug.’ “
Distrust from the party establishment could, of course, work in Lewandowski’s favor – making it easy for him to paint himself as a Trump-like outsider who status-quo politicians are afraid of. (If he did run, Lewandowski would join former state house Speaker Bill O’Brien and retired Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc in the GOP race.)
That closeness to Trump could be a major problem for Lewandowski if he winds up as the party’s nominee. Trump lost the state – albeit narrowly – in 2016 to Hillary Clinton.
The Point: If Lewandowski runs, he immediately becomes a problem for Senate Republicans seeking to hold or even grow their majority. There’s an outside shot that Shaheen could be vulnerable in 2020, but it’s hard to see Lewandowski – and his baggage – being the candidate who could beat her.