New Hampshire state Sen. Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, greets U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Cal., at an event in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Thursday. Credit: Rich Beauchesne | Portsmouth Herald

PORTSMOUTH, New Hampshire — U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Cal., says he expects to decide on a presidential run as the calendar turns from 2018 to 2019

The California Democrat shared his 2020 timetable in an interview Thursday at the home of Democratic state Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, his first stop in a jam-packed swing through New Hampshire, the state that traditionally holds the first primary in the race for the White House.

“I want to see how we do in the midterms, kind of take a pulse of the country. See where the country is,” the 37-year old three-term congressman said. “It’s a big decision. But I would expect that decision would happen right at the turn of the year.”

A member of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, he added, “I think that our country does need new energy, new ideas, a much-needed new confidence. And that’s something I think in my experience growing up, my work in the Congress, my work as a prosecutor, my work in the Russia investigation, has shown that I can bring.”

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Swalwell was in New Hampshire just days after his wife gave birth to their second child. “My wife and I just had a little girl last week, so we’re just climbing out of that,” he shared.

Swalwell was here to campaign with 2nd District Democratic Congresswoman Annie Kuster and Executive Councilor Chris Pappas, the Democratic nominee in the 1st District race to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter of Rochester.

At the breakfast with Seacoast Democratic leaders and activists, Swalwell highlighted his family story, explaining he was born in western Iowa to working class parents, who, in seeking a better life for their children, moved the family first to Oregon then California. He said his family moved so often he attended nine different schools before graduating high school. He was the first in his family to graduate from college.

He invoked the movie “Rocky IV” in explaining what kind of Democrat it will take to beat President Donald Trump in 2020.

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“I think the winning 2020 candidate for us, I don’t know if anyone’s seen the movie ‘Rocky IV,’ ignore the fact that it involved the Russians, how timely that is. But you have to be able to throw a punch, take a punch, and at the end of the fight, you need to have a very divided crowd, country, rooting for the winner,” he said.

Swalwell was asked if Trump’s rhetoric is fueling a toxic political environment that critics say is feeding violent acts like last week’s massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue and the pipe bombs sent to prominent Democrats, other Trump critics and CNN. “I think the president’s rhetoric is inspiring these attacks,” he said. “He continues to create a permissive environment where people think it’s OK to demonize a free press, where it’s OK to demonize your political opponents.

“He certainly did not pull the trigger in that awful tragedy and he did not send the bombs. But the way that those two individuals have talked on social media, it sounds a lot like the way the president talks. I think we would all like to see a president, Republican or Democrat, as someone our kids could look up to and could unite and heal a divided country and instead he seems to just pour gasoline on the fire.”

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Swalwell leads the Future Forum, comprising the 28 youngest House Democrats. He’s currently crisscrossing the country in hopes of increasing the number of young Democrats in Congress.

Swalwell told the audience, “I still carry just under $100,000 in student debt.” He called for “a college bargain with every student in America that says if you work through school and you come out and serve a community in need, you’ll get a debt-free education.”

Fuller Clark said Swalwell’s “message to reach out to millennials is very powerful. So I’m thrilled to have him here and have him speak about the future and not the past.”

Rockingham County Democrats chairman Larry Drake said, “I think a lot of people would like to hear his message. I think he’s a smart young man and has got a bright future. I hope he runs and comes through Rockingham County.”