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Welcome to the latest edition of THE 603.
 
Here in New Hampshire, we’ve got 2020 as well as 2018 on our minds.
 
With the midterm elections just over a week away, we’ve seen an influx of potential Democratic presidential contenders parachuting into the state to assist fellow Democrats on the ballot and help energize Election Day turnout.
 
But of course, we all know that’s not the only reason these likely White House hopefuls are visiting the state that for a century has held the first primary in the race for the presidency. 
 
The early 2020 moves have been underway for well over a year here, but the pace of visits has accelerated in recent weeks, as the White House race gets ready to transition from the pre-season to prime time, at least in New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada. Don't worry, we've got you covered. 

OK, enough with the preamble. Let’s get to the news.
 
Bernie’s coming back

Sen. Bernie Sanders returns to New Hampshire next weekend.
 
The independent senator from Vermont will headline a get-out-the-youth-vote rally at the University of New Hampshire in Durham on Sunday, November 4. That’s just two days before the November 6 election.  The noon-time event is being organized by the 
New Hampshire Youth Movement (NHYM) and Rights and Democracy (RAD).
 
Sanders is also scheduled to speak at 2 p.m. at a gathering at the Brookside Congregational Church in Manchester that’s being put together by the same two groups.
 
Sanders has been crisscrossing the country in recent weeks, headlining get-out-the-vote events in advance of the midterm elections. But his upcoming return visit to the state that holds the first primary in the race for the White House will spark more speculation that Sanders is moving closer to a second straight bid for the Democratic nomination. He crushed Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire’s 2016 Democratic primary, launching him into a marathon battle with the party’s eventual presidential nominee.  
 
Sanders was last in New Hampshire on Labor Day, when he keynoted the annual AFL-CIO breakfast for the fifth straight year.
 
Booker bound for New Hampshire
Sen. Cory Booker is headed to the Granite State this weekend. After trips to three of the four early voting states in the presidential primary and caucus calendar – Nevada in late August, Iowa earlier this month, and South Carolina last week – Booker will stop in New Hampshire on Sunday. It’s another sign that the senator appears to be gearing up to run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The high profile Democrat from New Jersey will be in Durham to headline a 1 p.m. get-out-the-vote event at the University of New Hampshire that’s being organized by the N.H. Young Democrats. Democratic gubernatorial nominee Molly Kelly and 1st Congressional District Democratic nominee Chris Pappas will be on the stage with Booker. Prior to the rally, he’ll be the main attraction at a fundraiser in Durham for the Young Democrats.

At 3 p.m., Booker and Pappas will help kick off a canvassing event at the New Hampshire Democratic Party’s coordinated campaign office in Portsmouth.

Booker later heads to the Upper Valley, where he’ll headline a 6 p.m. get-out-the-vote event at Dartmouth College. Second District Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster will join him on the stage.
Booker was last in New Hampshire just prior to the 2016 primary, when he campaigned for Hillary Clinton. He also spoke at a New Hampshire delegation breakfast at the 2016 Democratic convention in Philadelphia.
 
Merkley’s mission
Sen. Jeff Merkley returns to New Hampshire on Saturday. The Oregon Democrat will be making his fifth trip this year to the first-in-the-nation primary state.
 
The progressive lawmaker, who was the only Senate Democrat in 2016 to endorse Sen. Bernie Sander’s presidential bid, will join the 
League of Conservation Voters (LCV) ‘GreenRoots’ canvass at Throwback Brewery in North Hampton at 10am. At 1pm, Merkley will be in Nashua, joining the NH Young Democrats for a canvass launch.

On Sunday, the senator will team up with Second Congressional District Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster for a canvass kickoff at a 10am canvass kickoff at the State Employees Union headquarters in Concord.

Merkley’s quietly been making lots of contacts, and friends, among the activist class during his jam-packed trips to the Granite State.

Merkley told the Concord Monitor and the Oregonian last month that he and his wife Mary will make a decision on a 2020 bid after the midterms.
“We’re going to wrestle with that right after the election and we’ll figure it out then and decide on what we’re going to do,” he said.

Castro’s timetable
Former Housing and Urban Development Secy. Julian Castro says if he does run for the Democratic presidential nomination, he’s in no rush to announce his candidacy.
 
The former San Antonio, Texas mayor, who in the past two weeks has said he’s likely to make a bid for president, told the Concord Monitor and 
NHTalkRadio.com on Wednesday that “I’m likely to announce after the first of the year if I decide to run. I don’t feel rushed to actually announce.” WATCH 

Castro, who ran HUD under President Barack Obama, was interviewed during the first of three stops in New Hampshire on Wednesday. The trip was his third this year to the Granite State. 
 
Castro preached politics of optimism, saying that “I don’t think that we’re going to beat Donald Trump by being Donald Trump.” 
WATCH

Castro explained that “you have to be able to stand up to Trump and hold your own, but that’s not the same thing as getting into the gutter with Donald Trump. You’re never going to win a gutter war with Donald Trump because that’s who he is.” Concord Monitor

LISTEN to Castro’s full interview with the Concord Monitor and NHTalkRadio.com 

Ryan’s Red Arrow stop
Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio, a potential Democratic presidential contender, enjoyed an order of hotcakes as he sat down with theConcord Monitor and 
NHTalkRadio.com at the Red Arrow Diner on Loudon Road in Concord. The interview took place minutes after Ryan teamed up with Second District Democratic Congresswoman Annie Kuster to talk with customers and potential voters.
 
Ryan said when it comes to deciding about 2020, he doesn’t have a timetable: 
WATCH
 
The congressman, who challenged former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for Democratic leader a couple of years ago, sounded a bit skeptical about Pelosi’s comment this week that if the Democrats win back control of the House, she’d be a “transitional” speaker. "It sounds like a strategy she has to keep people in her corner,” he said.
 
And he added it’s critical “that we have a strong Midwest, blue collar representation in our House leadership" 
WATCH
 
Avenatti says ‘long knives’ are out for him as he mulls White House run
Michael Avenatti says when it comes to his potential bid for president, Republicans and even some Democrats are starting to take aim at him.
 
As the high profile Los Angeles based attorney and potential Democratic presidential contender was in New Hampshire Monday, a judge in California ordered Avenatti to pay $4.85 million to an attorney who worked as his former law firm. The ruling held Avenatti personally liable in a lawsuit over back pay.
 
“We are going to appeal it. I think the judgement’s going to be thrown out. There are some significant problems with the judgement,” Avenatti said confidently in an interview with SeacoastOnline at the Rockingham Democrats headquarters in Exeter.
 
And he highlighted that “what I do find interesting is the long knives are out as it relates to coming after me from people on the right and some establishment Democrats and I think it just goes to show you that some people see me as a considerable threat and they should.”

WATCH
 
Avenatti was making this third trip to New Hampshire since August. He grabbed national exposure this past year representing adult-film actress Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against the President and who became a very frequent guest on CNN and MNSBC. Last month he represented one of the three women to publicly accuse now-Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault. 
SeacoastOnline
 
Our long read this week features a piece by Time's Molly Ball, and it's worth the time, if you want to understand 
Avenatti's appeal

The Macker makes the most of one day in NH
Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe paid his first visit this cycle to the first-in-the-nation primary state last weekend. McAuliffe – aka ‘the Macker’ -  crammed in four stops, from Laconia to Manchester to Nashua to Salem, as well as a bunch of media interviews. The potential Democratic presidential contender and close personal friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton started his day by campaigning with his party’s Granite State gubernatorial nominee, former state Sen. Molly Kelly.

WMUR-TV
Kelly, by the way, heads to Boston on Saturday for a fundraiser headlined by Hillary Clinton. Kelly was a major Granite State supporter of Clinton’s 2008 and 2016 presidential campaigns.
LISTEN to the full Concord Monitor and NHTalkRadio.com interviews with McAuliffe, Ryan, and Avenatti  on ‘On Background’

Face-offs
Kelly and Republican Gov. Chris Sununu disagreed on almost every issue and traded fire over their records as they faced off at two debates this week. 
Concord Monitor
AP
WATCH/LISTEN to the NHPR gubernatorial debate. 
A t-shirt took center stage this week in a First Congressional District debate between Democratic executive councilor Chris Pappas and Republican nominee Eddie Edwards 
AP
 
Kuster says she doesn’t pay attention to the polls
She’s up by double digits in the latest public opinion surveys in New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional District race, but Democratic incumbent Rep. Annie Kuster says she’s not paying attention to the polls.
“I don’t go by the polls but I go by the conversations in the diners,” the three-term congresswoman from Hopkinton told the Monitor on Tuesday at the Red Arrow Diner in Concord.
“We’re in the middle of our 30 diners in 30 days and knocking on doors, talking to voters. And I think my record is holding up, the work that I’ve done to bring people together,” she said.
Whether she really doesn’t pay attention to polls is debatable. But what isn’t debatable is that the latest surveys indicate Kuster’s the clear favorite with under two weeks to go until Election Day. 
Concord Monitor

Legal battle over NH’s new voter registration law flares
The legal fight over New Hampshire’s new voter registration law continues, with state officials arguing that the latest court order creates more confusion, while the other side says the state is manufacturing an emergency.

The 2017 law requires new voters to provide more documentation if they register within 30 days of an election. A Hillsborough County Superior Court judge on Monday blocked the state from using the law, but issued a new order Thursday allowing it to be used until Nov. 6, Election Day. 
AP 

Coos County Controversy
The woman who claimed state Sen. Jeff Woodburn repeatedly assaulted her has stepped down as chairman of the Coos County Democratic Committee after her lawyer maintained she was given the choice of backing Woodburn’s election or resigning her post.

New Hampshire Union Leader
WMUR 


Finally, we wanted to offer up a piece not from NH but our friends in NYC, faq.nyc, one of the growing number of Civil newsrooms, this a story about Republican gubernatorial candidate Marcus Molinaro, but that interview took a backseat to Alex Lynn recounting her night with Anthony Scaramucci and his mom, who has... strong feelings on Steve Bannon. Enjoy

If you made it this far, thank-you for reading, please share with friends and colleagues by sending them here, have a good weekend, from Paul Steinhauser, NH's most versatile political news reporter who you can follow here and Kieran Baker, Co-Founder and Publisher THE 603.