If you’re looking for a presidential candidate two years before the election, try New Hampshire. South Orange County Republican Darrell Issa is braving the cold and snow this week in the Granite State. But his people insist he’s not running for the nation’s highest office.
Issa has had a busy schedule. Sunday saw his op/ed in the local paper, saying that “as Washington continues to grow more powerful, liberty has suffered the most.” Monday night he continued that theme is a speech to New Hampshire Republicans at the annual Lincoln Day Dinner, warning the GOP faithful of the pitfalls of big government. Issa has two more speeches Tuesday, at a breakfast fundraiser for local Republicans and then at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics.
Why would a California politician brave 18 degrees and snow in the middle of February? Marc Sandelow, who teaches political science at the University of California’s DC Center says, “The only reasons to go to New Hampshire in February are skiing or political ambition. And, as far as I know, Issa doesn't ski."
But according to Issa spokesman Kurt Bardella, the congressman “is not running for president.” Or at least that’s what he told The National Review. Bardella says Issa wants to help the GOP grow and “play a positive and impactful role in shaping its message going forward.” The place where the GOP needs help growing, however, is California, where party numbers are shrinking. Bardella says Issa has two events in the Golden State as well this week.
Political analyst Sherry Bebitch Jeffe believes Issa is raising his national profile for consideration as a vice president selection in 2016. “The Republicans are not going to waste the top of their national ticket on a Californian,” she says.
But she also says Issa could have made the trip because he was invited. Issa has stumped for local New Hampshire candidates twice before, in 2008 and 2010.
As head of the powerful and media friendly Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Issa is a popular GOP foe to the Obama administration. He led the charge against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms’ “Fast and Furious” gun running operation, Internal Revenue Service scrutiny of Tea Party and other non-profit organizations, and the attack on the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi.
Issa has made new friends – and enemies – as he’s expanded his portfolio to include a number of other issues: autonomy for Washington, D.C., postal service reform, and immigration. Nearly a hundred postal workers protested outside his Monday night speech, according to the “Nashua Telegraph,” objecting to Issa’s call for fewer mail workers.
Issa has been promising an immigration bill – what he calls a “come from the shadows” bill that would allow non-criminal aliens to remain in the United States with no permanent status or citizenship. Last week, Issa promised the bill would be introduced in the next few weeks as soon as he can “find Democrats willing to cross [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi.”
Issa will likely be stepping down as chairman of oversight at the end of the year. GOP House rules impose term limits with rare waivers.
In addition to fundraising for candidates in New Hampshire, Issa's own campaign account is quite fat: he has more than $3 million in cash on hand. That’s more than enough to fund his own low-key re-election campaign, plus plenty of cash to share with other candidates.