The former New Hampshire senator, running to reclaim his old seat 12 years after his loss in the GOP primary, spoke to Human Events about the campaign and his concerns for America.
“It was not an easy decision because I’ve been out for a while,” said Robert C. Smith, who represented the Granite State in Congress for five years before his Senate tenure from 1990 to 2003. “But I was watching what is going on as the country continues to move further and further to the left, with Obama and his ilk, if you will, in the Senate and in the House.”
If Smith won the Sept. 9 Republican primary, he would face Sen. C. Jeanne Shaheen (D.-N.H.), a former governor and a steadfast supporter of Hillary R. Clinton’s 2008 race for the White House against President Barack Obama.
“I’ve still got a lot of gas in the tank, if you will, and I believe that it’s going to take strong leadership to turn this country around,” he said.
“Then if we turn it around, we’ve got to begin to buy down the debt and move forward and do the sundry of things that are necessary to restore our Constitution and our freedoms,” he said.
In a battle of two former senators, Smith is expecting Scott P. Brown, who lost his Massachusetts Senate seat in 2012. Brown, who has long family ties to New Hampshire and now lives there full-time, has not yet announced.
Brown became a political celebrity when he won the special election to succeed Edward M. Kennedy Sr., in January 2010 campaigning as a Tea Party conservative. Then, when he arrived in Washington, he because a functional member of the Democratic caucus, even voting with Democrats to break a filibuster on a motion to raise the federal debt ceiling.
Smith said he understands why people were disappointed with Brown.
“I can’t think of two votes who would be more different as a Republican in the United States Senate than mine and Scott Brown’s,” he said.
“He’s got to do what he’s got to do. It’s a voter’s choice to sort it out, but I think it’s pretty obvious that in order for our country to turn around it’s going to take strong conservative leadership from our side of the aisle,” he said.
“A lot of candidates, including Scott Brown, can run and say what they will do or what they might do and I’ll do that, too. I’ll tell you what I will do, but I can also tell you what I did do,” he said.
“When you look back at what I have done in the Senate and in the House in my terms there, you will see that I kept my word with 100 percent voting record on life, and guns, and pretty much on taxes and spending as well,” he said.
“My conservative principles were intact then prove it. I think that’s what I bring to the table, and I hope the voters will understand that and help me.and they are now,” the Vietnam War Navy veteran said. “I think you have reason to believe that I can continue that in that same vein, and I have a track record to prove it.”
It has not always been an easy road for Smith.
Having come to Washington the year Reagan was reelected, 10 years later, Smith was in the Senate when Newton L. “Newt” Gingrich brought the revolution to the Capitol in 1994. In the next five years, Washington became a political battleground, as Gingrich battled both President William J. Clinton, while balancing the demands from Republicans locked into the status quo and conservatives demanding more action, faster.
In 1999, after federal government shutdowns, the House GOP impeached Clinton and Gingrich resigned after a tough 1998 midterms, Smith announced he was running for the White House. When that did not take, he said in a July 13, 1999 Senate floor speech was leaving the Republican Party altogether.
In his address, Smith said he was confused about what happened to the GOP just as it was in the position to achieve the goals it promised the voters it would pursue.
“Why did we change? We won the revolution on issues. We won the revolution on principles. But the desire to stay in power caused us to start listening to the pollsters and the consultants again who are now telling us, for some inexplicable reason, that we need to walk away from the issues that got us here to remain in power. Maybe somebody can tell me why,” he said.
After the speech, all the Republican careerists on Smith’s staff resigned.
By 2000, Smith was back in the Republican Party and taking his turn at committee chairmanship and being an early enough supporter of George W. Bush for president–but it all been too much static. In 2002, he lost his primary and moved to Florida.
Most common thing said about Smith is that he burned too many bridges. But, he presses on and talks like a man falling in love with politics again.
“I don’t know about the ballot access yet, whether we’ll do that or just pay the fee. At this point, I don’t know. I haven’t even thought about it. We’ll certainly have enough if we want to do signatures,” he said. The filing deadline for the primary is June 13.
“We’re going to be running a grassroots campaign. I’m running it just like I did the first time I ever ran, door to door, literally. It’s just the way it’s going to be,” he said.
“I take nothing for granted,” he said. “I can’t do it alone, and it takes probably 70 or 80 thousand voters to win the primary, and then from there you move forward into the general and hopefully take the seat back.”