NASHUA, N.H. – Democratic National Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz derided the 17 announced and potential GOP presidential candidates here for a state-party summit Friday and Saturday as a "clown car of extremism" crammed with peddlers of discredited policies.
She said they all, to one degree or another support trickle-down economics approaches, cutting taxes for the wealthy, that have failed to spur economic growth and contributed to the crash of 2008. In addition, the Republicans stand against gay rights, legislation mandating equal pay for women, and abortion rights.
"They might as well be one person," said Ray Buckley, chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party.
But doesn't the crowded GOP field testify to a vitality that contrasts with the Democrats, where Hillary Clinton faces no serious opposition for the nomination.
"We don't have a presumptive nominee," Wasserman Schultz said. "Let's just be clear. We will have a primary, and I expect it to be competitive, so we will have a discussion of ideas on our side of the aisle as well."
She cited her GOP counterpart Reince Priebus, who has done his best to avoid overexposure of intraparty fighting by, among other things, limiting authorized TV debates. "He's shrunk the debates down to nine, simply so they don't have their wackadoodles out there disturbing voters…that hurt them in the general election."
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has banked heavily on New Hampshire, spending more time here this week than any of the other hopefuls. He proposed cuts in federal entitlements, campaigned hard at diners and pizza shops and held a free-wheeling town hall meeting.
"I'm not sure there's anything Chris Christie can say to re-establish himself as a credible candidate for president," Buckley said in an interview.
Christie's strategists rely on his superior skills in the town-hall format, pointing to how Arizona Sen. John McCain revived his left-for-dead campaign by taking on all questions in dozens of VFW halls and community centers across New Hampshire, rounding up anyone who would listen.
"They're all going to be doing to be town halls," Buckley said. "There's nothing so unique to Chris Christie that others can't match or do better," Buckley said. But the bigger problem, in his view, is the anemic economy and fiscal trouble sin New Jersey itself. "When you're running for president, Republican or Democrat, as a governor or former governor, you're really running on that record," Buckley said, and Christie "has nothing to point to."
Holding the opposite view is Drew Cline, influential editor of the conservative editorial page of the Manchester Union-Leader. He says that the state, with its more varied primary electorate than in Iowa's caucuses, is tailor-made for a candidate with Christie's extraordinary retail gifts. Indeed, though he has dropped since the front-runner days, the New Jersey governor is still running fourth in the Real Clear Politics average of the very early New Hampshire polls, in the hunt.