John Bolton is beating a path between Washington, D.C., and New Hampshire. Bolton’s spokesman said the former United Nations ambassador will head to the Granite State this weekend to make a campaign stop for Republican House candidate Marilinda Garcia, with whom he held a national security press conference earlier this month. He will also do some phone-banking for the state Republican Party. On top of that, his political action committee recently gave the state party $10,000, and he will soon be announced as a member of the Chairman’s Circle (a small group of significant donors to the party that, per the Daily Caller also includes Sen. Kelly Ayotte, former Sen. Scott Brown, and Sen. Rand Paul).
It appears to be part of Bolton’s effort to expand his role from a leading conservative foreign policy player to powerful politico. Bolton has never run for elected office and has spent the bulk of his career in the executive branch—he was in Ronald Reagan’s and George H. W. Bush’s administrations, as well as being George W. Bush’s undersecretary of state for arms control and international security before getting bumped up to the U.N. job.
Though he’s been a surrogate for Mitt Romney and John McCain, electoral politics is a bit of a shift from his M.O. And this cycle, he’s busy. His super PAC has made independent expenditures to run ads boosting Scott Brown and Garcia, his PAC and super PAC have together raised more than $7 million, and he’s endorsed 85 Republican candidates (including Maryland congressional candidate Alex Mooney, Iowa Rep. Steve King, Arizona congressional candidate Martha McSally, Arkansas Senate candidate Tom Cotton, New York congressional candidate Elise Stefanik, and Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts).
The trip won’t just be about politicking, though. Bolton is also slated to have a private meeting with the executive director of the New Hampshire Institute for Politics, a rite of passage for serious potential presidential contenders. In August 2013, he told the National Review that he was eyeing a 2016 presidential bid, citing dismay at President Obama’s foreign policy. That still seems to be very much on the table.
In an email, Bolton described himself as “a libertarian conservative on most domestic issues” and was critical of both parties for de-emphasizing the national security issues that are his bread and butter.
“I set up the PAC and SuperPAC because national security has been eclipsed by other issues under the Obama administration and due to an inadequate Republican response,” he wrote. “It’s been a mistake for the country and I’m determined to change that.”
Whether or not he thinks he needs to run for president to change that is unclear. But trekking up to New Hampshire in late October certainly suggests that’s a possibility.
“John has made it a point to have [national security] front and center in any 2016 election campaign,” said Charlie Kupperman, the treasurer of the Bolton for New Hampshire PAC. “I don’t think any candidate that decides to run will be able to ignore that dimension.”
Will the rise of ISIS and the conflict in Ukraine earn Bolton’s hawkish foreign policy views a better reception in New Hampshire than they might have otherwise received?
“The American people are very pragmatic and well ahead of their political leadership in understanding why national security has never faded as a real issue,” he emailed.