Sprint to mid-start in turbulent political realm

Republicans hope to avoid complicated primary results in New Hampshire

Retired Army Brigadier General Don Bolduc, who lost his 2020 race, is expected to win Tuesday’s race, sparking a spending frenzy from Republican groups looking to boost state Senate President Chuck Morse ). Top Republicans have reservations about Borduk, whom even those close to him describe as a “loose cannon” without much political organizing or fundraising capacity. By Aug. 24, he had raised less than $600,000, compared with Hassan’s $31.4 million.

A major question for the race, as it does across the country, is what the as-yet-unsupported former President Donald Trump will do. But in the final stages, a group with ties to the Senate GOP super PAC, the Senate Leadership Fund, purchased about $4.5 million in airtime two weeks before the primary. An attacking ad, slanted “crazy ideas,” by criticizing Bolduc’s criticism of Trump and New Hampshire’s Republican Gov. Chris Sununu. The Senate Majority PAC, a Democratic group, responded with a $3.2 million attack on Morse’s ad. Whoever wins the primaries will need to turn things around quickly in the general election — looking ahead to that turnaround, the Senate Leadership Fund announced last week that it plans to spend at least $23 million on TV ads in New Hampshire starting in the primary.

The spending spree underscores GOP concerns that New Hampshire — considered the top choice before Sununu’s defeat late last year — could become the party’s latest and last state to be swept away by a limited-capacity complex Candidates are haunted by raising money to make it easier for Democrats to win the state by 7 percentage points under Biden. An evenly divided Senate has put pressure on every race this cycle. Republicans need only one seat to flip the House, and in a changing political environment, the stakes are even higher in every game, especially as Republican candidates across the country struggle to raise funds.

“There’s nothing going on in the Senate races across the country; they’ve got second-best candidates in state after state, they’ve got some candidates who are going to drop a few states, and Borduk is going to be part of that model, ” said Fergus Cullen, the former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party and a Morse supporter. “This will be another challenge that will take defeat from victory.”

The Republican candidate’s fundraising woes have created a situation where outside groups and national Republican Senate committees will have to spend more than expected to keep candidates viable in states like Arizona, Ohio and Pennsylvania .

Sprint to mid-start in turbulent political realm

“It’s a concern,” a senior Republican official involved in the Senate campaign said of Bolduc’s fundraising struggles. “If your candidate doesn’t have enough money to protect his image or spread information about himself, there’s not much outside groups can do.”

With New Hampshire being the cycle’s last tightly contested Senate primary, Republicans are under pressure not only to pick a candidate who can win, but one that doesn’t rely solely on party infrastructure for funding .

This week could prove crucial: Candidates will gather for two debates — one hosted by New England College on Wednesday and the other by local radio station WMUR on Thursday.

‘He’s not a serious candidate’

The first blow to New Hampshire Republicans came in November 2021, when Sununu refused to run for the Senate, a decision that came months after top Republican recruiting that hurt the party’s prospects of defeating Hassan. blow.

With Sununu left out and more high-profile candidates like former Senator Kelly Ayotte passed, the primary turned into a public and contentious affair with nearly a dozen Republicans run for election. The uncertainty has kind of froze the GOP’s efforts to pick a winner in the race, allowing Borduk to use his voter base in the 2020 primary to become a darling of the race that has other Republicans very much. upset.

“He’s not a serious candidate. He really isn’t,” Sununu told WGIR in August. “If he’s the nominee, I have no doubt we’ll have a hard time regaining that seat. So, I’m not going to take him seriously. I don’t think most people will.”

Bolduc made Sununu one of his top targets throughout his run. Although he retracted some of his remarks about the governor, he made baseless claims in 2021 that Sununu was a “communist sympathizer” and that the governor’s family — who has been in New Hampshire politics for decades —” support terrorism”.
Sununu called Borduk “a kind of conspiracy theorist” and refused to support him.

Bolduc has never been an institution favorite. He launched a stunning primary challenge for Republican Corky Messner to challenge Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in 2020. When the primary election ended and Messner won, Borduk lashed out at the new nominee, angering the state’s top Republican ranks and bolstering support for Democrats. Use a lot of video in their attack ads.

Bolduc adviser Rick Wiley disputed the claim that the retired general could not defeat Hassan.

“They don’t know what they’re talking about,” Wiley said of those who denigrated Borduk. “The authority coming out of the swamp, that’s all. … His ability to connect with voters is something I haven’t seen in a long time.”

Wiley and the Borduk campaign, ahead of Tuesday’s primary, were also outraged by the Republicans’ aid to Morse, with Wiley saying the money “should be spent on (beating) Maggie Hassan.”

Democrats gleefully watched the chaotic Republican primary, hoping it would only strengthen Hassan’s position.

While Republicans are locked in a divided primary, Hassan has been able to run ads a year before the September 2021 primary, and stockpiles millions of ads that will be trained by Republicans after the primary. Hassan’s primary report shows she has more than $7.3 million in the bank, and she has aired $9.5 million in TV commercials.

Hassan’s campaign manager Aaron Jacobs wrote: “With New Hampshire holding the country’s latest primary election, Borduk and Morse will have little time to try what they call a general election turn. — rather, their extreme records will determine their performance,” in a memo.

Like Democrats across the country, Hasan’s campaign plans to make abortion a central issue in the race, hoping to seize the dynamism that propelled the party after the Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision in June. Hassan’s message may have been reinforced by a series of investigations that found New Hampshire to be one of the most pro-abortion rights states in the country.

“The anti-selection record of our Republican opponent will be the primary responsibility of New Hampshire voters, who have long supported reproductive rights at the ballot box,” said Hassan spokeswoman Sydney Peterson.

Will Trump be late?

Trump did not endorse the campaign, in part because his former aide Corey Lewandowski had been working behind the scenes to ensure Borduk would not be endorsed by the former president.

But that hasn’t stopped Trump from praising the retired general, including in a recent interview with John Fredericks, a conservative radio host who supports Borduk.

“He said some great things, a strong guy, a tough guy. I think he did a great job as well. I heard he was up, he was up a lot,” Trump told Fredericks. “You were in that game, it was fun, and you backed Bolduc. So, I’ll keep that in mind.”

Trump also called Sununu last week to discuss issues including the state’s Senate race. The conversation was a bit odd: Sununu, who is running for re-election as governor, has been an outspoken Trump critic and called the former president “crazy” in a comedy commentary in April.

“President Trump’s call to Governor Sununu, the Senate race is part of a larger protection,” said Sununu spokesman Ben Vista. “The Governor encouraged the President to look at the Senate race.”

Trump has made it clear throughout the cycle that he wants to shape the Republican race, backing candidates like Pennsylvania’s Mehmet Oz and Arizona’s Blake Masters to help them pass tricky primaries.

Some New Hampshire Republican operatives believe Trump’s support could be significant. “Donald Trump is still a very influential member of the party, if not the leader of the party. Of course that’s important,” said Josh Mack, a Republican special agent leading Borduk’s Senate campaign in 2020 Erwin said. But other New Hampshire Republicans acknowledged that supporting Borduk could backfire if Trump ran for office again in 2024, especially given the importance of the Granite state in the presidential nomination race.

“It’s important,” a senior Republican official in the state said of Trump’s endorsement. “But if I advise Trump, I’d tell him not to be out because he’s not making any friends here.”

But the same University of New Hampshire poll found Borduk leading in the primary, and also found that Sununu and Trump’s support had the same impact on voters — 35% of the New Hampshire Republican primary Voters said Sununu’s support would make them “more likely to vote for this candidate, while 36 percent said it was about Trump’s support.

However, that number has increased among undecided primary voters — 41% of whom have not yet chosen a candidate saying Trump’s support would make them “more likely” to vote for that candidate, This compares to 21 percent for Sununu.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect exactly what Hassan’s campaign manager wrote in his memo.

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