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Welcome to the latest edition of THE 603.
 
With the 2018 midterm elections now in the rear view mirror, the 2020 White House race officially kicks into gear in New Hampshire and the other early primary and caucus states.
 
While we could eventually see a Democratic presidential nomination field of over 20 candidates, the first potential White House contender to visit the state that for a century has held the first presidential primary will ironically be a Republican. 
 
That person’s Ohio Gov. John Kasich –unless another possible candidate makes an as of now unscheduled stop in the Granite State before Thursday.
 
When those Democratic contenders do resume their visits, they’ll be coming to a state where Democrats are celebrating impressive victories. While popular GOP Gov. Chris Sununu won a second two-year term steering the state, he didn’t provide any coattails for fellow Republicans, as Democrats flipped the state House of Representatives, the state Senate and the Executive Council.
 
OK, enough of the small talk. Let’s get to the news.
 
Kasich’s coming back 
The Ohio governor’s second place finish in the 2016 New Hampshire Republican primary transformed the one time longshot for the nomination into a potential contender. Kasich camped out here, making countess friends in the state as he held over 100 town halls, as well as taking part in dozens of forums, and headlining a slew of house parties and meet and greets. In New Hampshire.
 
Now he’s coming back – for the second time this year – to say hello and stay in touch wtih old friends and potentially make some new ones, as he mulls a primary challenge to President Donald Trump or a third-party run for the White House.

Concord Monitor

WATCH: Kasich, on his previous trip to New Hampshire, says all his options “are on the table”
 
Kristol’s ‘laying the groundwork’ for someone to primary Trump
Conservative columnist Bill Kristol – arguably the most notorious leader of the never-Trump movement – picked the day after the midterms to make his second trip to New Hampshire this year. Speaking at a midterms post-mortem sponsored by the right leaning NH Journal and the Southern New Hampshire University Republicans, the founder of the conservative opinion magazine the Weekly Standard revealed “we’ve started laying the groundwork for the possibility of a serious challenge to President Trump in the 2020 GOP primary.”
But he added that he won’t be the one to take on Trump. 
NH Journal

Beto bound for New Hampshire?
Will we see the latest rock star in the Democratic Party in New Hampshire soon?
Jay Surdukowski certainly hopes so. The Concord attorney and longtime Democratic activist – who backed Martin O’Malley in the 2016 primary – took to Twitter the day after Beto O’Rourke narrowly lost to incumbent GOP Sen. Ted Cruz – to put out a public invitation
“A scrappy Texan with Bobby Kennedy charm - could be just the ticket to take on a Manhattan billionaire. 
@BetoORourke, you are welcome in New Hampshire anytime,” Surdukowski wrote.
LINK TO TWEET
And the vast majority of the 53 people who took part in the latest informal questionnaire Surdukowski likes to ask on Twitter said they’d be interested in meeting O’Rourke if he decides to explore a presidential run.
LINK TO TWEET

The real highlight from Bernie’s quick NH trip
Sen. Bernie Sanders dropped into New Hampshire last Sunday, to headline two get-out-the-youth-vote rallies just two days before the midterms. But most telling about his 2020 intentions was a private meeting the independent senator from Vermont held with nearly 30 of the top Granite State supporters of his 2016 campaign.
 
Multiple sources who attended the gathering told The Daily Beast that Sanders thanked them for their 2016 efforts and then shared that he’s considering another White House run but hasn’t made any decisions. Sanders captured 60% of the vote in the 2016 primary, crushing eventual nominee Hillary Clinton in what was basically a two-candidate field. His victory launched him into a month’s long battle with Clinton.
 
If Sanders runs again, he likely won’t have the progressive lane exclusively to himself. A leading Sanders 2016 supporter in New Hampshire, who asked for anonymity to speak more freely, said Sanders “doesn’t have a lock” on his followers in the Granite State.
 
But the supporter added that “the default is Bernie,” and said that the other potential progressive contenders in a likely extra-large Democratic field “would have to show that they’re stronger, more viable candidates.”
 
More on his trip from 
AP
 
Will Shaheen run for re-election?
It’s the biggest campaign question in New Hampshire – will former three-term governor and current two-term U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen run for a third term in 2020? And will former Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte make a bid to return to the Senate?

WMUR

No coattails for New Hampshire Gov. Sununu
Gov. Chris Sununu won re-election Tuesday to a second two-year term steering New Hampshire, defeating Democratic challenger Molly Kelly.
But the Republican governor’s coattails didn’t extend down the ballot, as the Democrats kept control of both of New Hampshire’s congressional seats. And the party convincingly flipped of both chambers of the state legislature, as well as the five member Executive Council. The popular GOP governor will now face a dramatically altered political landscape in Concord, as divided government returns to the Statehouse with  a vengeance. And we’ll see more younger and diverse faces in the state legislature

Portsmouth Herald/Fosters Daily Democrat
Union Leader
NHPR 
LISTEN
: The week in New Hampshire politics 

Kuster: ‘I hear it’s a lot more fun’ in the House majority
For the first time in her six years serving in Congress, Annie Kuster’s about to be in the majority. And the Democrat from New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional District is looking forward to what that might afford.
 Concord Monitor 
Portsmouth Herald/Fosters Daily Democrat
WATCH
WATCH


So long Sapareto
A Republican lawmaker accused of assaulting a business partner over a pornographic film won’t be returning to the State House.

Concord Monitor
 
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here. That's all we've got, have a great weekend; you can follow Paul Steinhauser, NH's most versatile political news reporter, here, and contact THE 603 co-founder & publisher, Kieran Baker, here.