Republicans Admit “The Bench Is Thin”
The Boston Globe reported this weekend on how Republicans are struggling to “recruit A-list Senate candidates” and that “no new serious contender has joined the lackluster field in a now wide-open race for the Republican Senate nomination” in New Hampshire. The lack of a robust field has Republicans concerned — and openly complaining that “the [Republican] bench is thin” in the Granite State. One reason no major figures have jumped in the race? The prospect of a messy and divisive primary. The Globe reports that “the GOP base continues to hunger for candidates who embrace everything Trump: the election lies, conspiracy theories, and xenophobia that define his politics.” That far-right turn has made it hard to recruit a major candidate, with one Republican operative telling the Globe that “if you’re a responsible Republican, it doesn’t sound very fun to run in this climate.” Key Excerpts:
Nearly two months later, no new serious contender has joined the lackluster field in a now wide-open race for the Republican Senate nomination. Party insiders insist that will change in the coming weeks, although most of those cited as potential candidates have less name recognition and statewide campaign experience than those who have already passed.
“I wish it could have been Chris or Kelly,” sighed Earl Rinker, a Republican and former member of New Hampshire’s Executive Council, at a GOP Christmas party in mid-December, referring to Sununu and former senator Kelly Ayotte, who also has made clear that she is out. “What’s going to happen now, I don’t know.”
The dynamic is not unique to New Hampshire. At a time when so much of the GOP’s politics revolves around former president Donald Trump and his obsession with imagined fraud in the 2020 election, some traditionally electable candidates are passing on key 2022 Senate races nationwide, while those from the party’s Trump wing or with checkered pasts rise to the top in several states.
The GOP base continues to hunger for candidates who embrace everything Trump: the election lies, conspiracy theories, and xenophobia that define his politics, as well as his personal example that a celebrity with no governing experience can blaze a path into political office.
“Republicans run the risk of botching easy victories if they don’t recruit and nominate the best candidates, and I think at this point the jury’s still out on whether we have the best people running in key races,” said Ryan Williams, a Republican strategist who was a spokesman for the unsuccessful reelection campaign of former New Hampshire senator John E. Sununu.
“This entire election, the Republican line is going to be about the election being stolen. That’s their turnout mechanism, that is how they’re messaging to voters,” Sarah Longwell said. “If you’re a responsible Republican, it doesn’t sound very fun to run in this climate.”
To date, the officially declared Republican field in New Hampshire includes Don Bolduc, a retired Army brigadier general who announced his campaign in November 2020 but whose anemic fund-raising of $130,000 so far suggests he is not being taken seriously as a candidate. A second declared candidate has raised just $168.
“I do believe there is not a credible candidate in this race right now,” said Corky Messner, who was the GOP nominee in the 2020 Senate race but lost to Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen. He has not ruled out challenging Hassan and convened a meeting of potential candidates in early December, an event that quickly leaked to WMUR.
For a town manager to be among the most buzzed about candidates is a particularly New Hampshire turn of events. And some Republicans admit that, in a state with hundreds of low-paid state lawmakers but only a handful of statewide elected positions, their bench is thin.