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EXCLUSIVE: AMHERST, New Hampshire – Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan calls July 4th “a great day to celebrate our freedom, our independence, and what Americans have in common, which is that love of freedom and love of country.”
But Independence Day is also a great day for politicians to campaign.
And Hassan, a former governor and first-term senator who’s being targeted by Republicans as she faces a potentially challenging reelection this year in the key battleground state of New Hampshire, was in campaign mode as she spoke with Fox News ahead of the annual July 4th parade in the picturesque town of Amherst.
Pointing to the crowded field of Republicans running for their party’s nomination in the hopes of facing off with Hassan in November’s midterm elections, the senator charged that “I’ve got a group of really extreme opponents. Whoever emerges as the nominee in this primary is going to be extreme, is going to be a rubber stamp for [Senate GOP leader] Mitch McConnell.”
Democrats face historical headwinds and an extremely difficult political climate fueled by soaring gas prices, record inflation and President Biden’s underwater approval ratings, as they try to hang onto their razor-thin majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives in November.
But Democratic strategists see a silver lining in the seismic overturning of the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority and the returning the issue of legalized abortion to state legislatures. It may offer Democrats a chance to alter the campaign conversation, energize their progressive base, and win back key female and suburban voters who helped the Democrats win back the House in 2018 but appeared to cross party lines in some 2020 congressional contests and again in GOP victories in elections in Virginia and New Jersey last November.
“The Supreme Court decision just catapulted us backwards. Now, women are again second-class citizens in the United States because this fundamental freedom has been taken away from us. It’s going to be critically important this fall for people to understand that Mitch McConnell and my opponents want to pass a national abortion ban,” Hassan charged in a national exclusive interview with Fox News. “We can’t let happen and people need to vote for pro-choice candidates up and down the ballot.”
While abortion is likely growing as an issue in the midterms, surveys suggest that inflation and gas prices remain the top concern for voters.
Hassan and fellow first-term Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona, who also hails from a key general election battleground state who also faces a challenging reelection, co-authored a bill in February to temporarily repeal the federal gas tax, to help consumers cope with skyrocketing prices at the pump.
While the president is now onboard in support of the idea, their bill still faces obstacles in Congress.
“We need to lower gas prices. People are really feeling the hurt at the pump. I want to suspend the gas tax at least through the rest of the year. I’m glad the president has come on board. I’ll keep pushing for that. And also holding big oil accountable because they are making record profits while they’re still keeping prices really, really high,” Hassan stressed.
While some congressional leaders in both parties are opposed to the bill, Hassan took aim at the Republicans.
“The Republicans have been blocking any vote on this in Congress. We need to get them to stop blocking it and I’ll keep pushing for it. Most Americans think this is a really sensible thing to do. And it would help put a little bit more money back in people’s pockets at a time when other costs are high too,” she argued.
Two of the major Republican candidates running for the Senate also marched in Monday’s parade.
“I think it’s pretty clear – the average person right now is – what they’re paying to buy their groceries for this holiday weekend or the fuel that they’re putting in the car to get to the cookouts they’re going to. They know it. They know what’s going on. They’re know we’re headed in the wrong direction,” New Hampshire state Senate president Chuck Morse told Fox News.
“I think she’s got a lot of explaining to do,” Morse, who’s a small business owner, said of Hassan. “We’re certainly going to make it clear that Sen. Hassan is not doing her job.”
And former Londonderry, New Hampshire town manager Kevin Smith emphasized that “at the end of the day, people are going to be going to the voting booth, voting with their wallet. And when they’re paying over $5 a gallon for gas. When they’re paying over $6 a gallon for home heating oil. When they’re paying huge prices at the grocery story – those are the issues that they’re going to be voting on as they go into that ballot box.”
And Smith claimed that “I’m the only one – not Maggie Hassan – who has a plan to fix those issues.”
While New Hampshire for a century’s held the first presidential primary in the nominating calendar, it’s state primary is one of the last in the schedule.
While Hassan concentrates on the general election – she faces one little known primary challenger – and continues to build an impressive campaign war chest – the GOP won’t have a Senate nominee until the September 13 primary – which is less than two months removed from the November election.