Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan and GOP Governor Chris Sununu win New Hampshire primary races

CONCORD, NH — The Republican contest for the New Hampshire Senate emerged Tuesday as a tight race between conservative Donald Bolduc and more moderate Chuck Morse as the final primary night of the midterm season again tested the far-right influence on the GOP.

Republicans consider Democratic incumbent Senator Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire to be beatable in the general election, just eight weeks away. But a strong contender in the GOP contest is Bolduc, a retired Army brigadier general who some party members say is too right-wing for some swing voters in the general election. Morse, the president of the state senate, was backed by the Republican establishment.

The state senate seat could prove crucial to whichever party controls the chamber after November. President Joe Biden lifted New Hampshire by more than 7 percentage points and Bolduc campaigned on a platform that includes lies that Donald Trump won the 2020 election and vaccine conspiracy theories.

Hassan won his party’s nomination against token opposition while Governor Chris Sununu won the Republican Party’s nomination for another term. He is heavily favored against Democrat Tom Sherman, who was not opposed to his party’s gubernatorial nomination.

Sherman, a senator and state physician, was quick to remind voters that Sununu signed a ban on late-term abortions last year. “As governor, I will defend our freedoms and protect women’s right to choose, and I will not give in to extremists like Chris Sununu,” he said.

Sununu replied in a statement that “the stakes are too high in November to change direction now.”

Still, a Bolduc victory could reignite disappointment among some National Republicans that Sununu, a relatively popular moderate who likely could have posed a bigger threat to Hassan, chose to run for re-election instead. The GOP is grappling with the possibility of re-nominating a candidate who is popular with the party’s base but who is struggling to broaden support ahead of the November general election.

Republican primary voters have also chosen conservative candidates this year in moderate or Democratic-leaning states, including Massachusetts and Maryland, potentially putting competitive races out of reach for the party.

Neil Levesque, director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, said Bolduc is a type of candidate who would have struggled to succeed in GOP politics before Trump’s rise. He has never held elected office and had only $75,000 in cash as of last week. Bolduc nevertheless managed to break through by positioning himself as an ally of Trump and his electoral lies.

“It’s because the theme of his campaign and his messaging is very similar to former President Trump,” Levesque said. “If it reflects the former president, it was effective.”

Federal and state officials and Trump’s own attorney general said there was no credible evidence the election was tainted. The former president’s fraud allegations have also been flatly dismissed by the courts, including by Trump-appointed judges.

Known for kicking off primary season during presidential campaigns, New Hampshire is wrapping up the nomination process for this year’s midterms instead. There are also primaries Tuesday in Rhode Island and Delaware, where President Joe Biden traveled Tuesday night to vote.

But the New Hampshire Senate race is perhaps the most telling of the GOP’s direction. Morse was endorsed by Sununu, who called him “the candidate to beat Senator Hassan in November and the candidate Senator Hassan is most afraid to face.”

In contrast, Sununu called Bolduc a conspiracy theorist and suggested he might have a harder time winning the general election.

Bolduc was unfazed by Sununu’s criticisms, calling the governor a “Chinese communist sympathizer”. Bolduc was not officially endorsed by Trump, who propelled many leading contenders to victory in key races throughout the summer. But the former president called Bolduc a “strong guy”.

The latest primary contests came at a dramatic time in the midterm campaign. Republicans have spent much of the year building their election-year message around Biden and his handling of the economy, especially soaring prices. But Democrats are now entering the home stretch with a sense of cautious optimism as Biden’s approval stabilizes and inflation slows for the second month in a row, though it remains high.

The Supreme Court’s decision overturning a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion may provide Democrats with the energy they need to reverse the defeats that historically accompany a new president’s first half terms.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged the challenge last month, saying his party may be more likely to end Democrats’ tight control of the House than the Senate. He lamented the “quality of candidates” as a factor that could influence some results in his chamber.

Some Democratic groups, meanwhile, sponsored primary ads promoting Bolduc, predicting he would become an easier opponent for Hassan in November. This is consistent with Democratic-aligned organizations backing pro-Trump candidates in key races across the country — a strategy some have criticized, arguing it could backfire if those candidates win elections. general.

Republicans in New Hampshire and the rest of the country scoff at the idea that being a Trump loyalist — or not — could be a deciding factor in the general election, noting that the ever-unpopular Biden will be a drag on his party. Nevertheless.

The New Hampshire Republican Party tweeted that Hassan “votes with Joe Biden 96.4% of the time.”

Many of the same dynamics swirling around the former president are at work in New Hampshire’s 2nd congressional district, where pro-Trump candidate Bob Burns is among several Republicans vying for the party’s nomination to face. to five-term Democratic incumbent Annie Kuster.

In New Hampshire’s other congressional district, which encompasses Manchester and the southeastern part of the state, several Republicans are vying to challenge Democratic Representative Chris Pappas, who could also face a potentially general election re-election contest. tight – once he learns who his opponent will be. .

The GOP field includes former television broadcaster Gail Huff Brown, wife of Scott Brown, a former US senator from Massachusetts and ambassador to New Zealand during the Trump administration. Also in the running is Matt Mowers, who won the district’s Republican congressional nomination in 2020 and served as a State Department adviser to the Trump administration.

But perhaps Trump’s closest candidate is Karoline Leavitt, who worked in his White House press office and also campaigned with Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

“His compass still points to Trump,” said Dante Scala, professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire. He added, in reference to the former president’s ‘Make America Great Again’ campaign slogan, “She, in a very clean, crisp, confident way, will say the most MAGA thing that can be said in no time.” no matter what.”

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