MEMO: Get Ready for New Hampshire’s Nastiest and Divisive New Hampshire Republican Primary
MEMO: Get Ready for New Hampshire’s Nastiest and Divisive New Hampshire Republican Primary in Two Decades
TOPLINE: The race for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate is set to be the nastiest, most divisive and chaotic New Hampshire primary since 2002. With General Don Bolduc already running an extreme, far-right campaign, Granite Staters should expect to see a growing field of candidates whose sole focus is on pandering to the Republican fringe and courting Donald Trump’s endorsement. With a chaotic field, there will be no strong frontrunner in this race, and instead, a slate of candidates tripping over each other in mad dash to the far-right.
With a growing list of candidates considering a run, here’s what you need to know:
In a Divided Field, Donald Trump and Out-Of-State Republicans Will Play Kingmaker
With no clear frontrunner and at least a dozen candidates seriously considering a race for US Senate — Donald Trump’s endorsement “will play an outsized role,” as WMUR reported last week.
So where’s Trump leaning? Trump made headlines in September when he issued a statement praising Don Bolduc in September and then had a fifteen minute call with him.
Although Bolduc has a leg-up, expect Republican candidates to spend more time pandering to Donald Trump — and amplifying Trump’s Big Lie — than talking about the issues facing Granite Staters.
Don Bolduc Will Draw the Entire Field to the Extreme Right
Bolduc — the only declared candidate in the field — has spent months staking out the most extreme, far-right positions of the Republican primary field with the hopes of getting Donald Trump’s endorsement — and he will push the entire field to the far-right with him.
Bolduc has repeatedly echoed Trump’s lies about voter fraud, most recently in an interview with The New Yorker where he alleged that there was widespread voter fraud in New Hampshire in 2020, including in Waterville Valley; said he was open to military intervention in the next presidential election; and pledged to challenge the certification of the Electoral College vote if a Republican doesn’t win.
Bolduc’s clear embrace of Trump, the Big Lie, and other extreme fringe conspiracy theories put him in a strong position to win Trump’s endorsement — and the rest of the field will have to take similar positions if they want Trump’s support.
The First Congressional District’s Race to the Right Is a Preview of the Senate Primary
The First Congressional District’s fractious and divisive primary is already giving a clear preview of what the Republican Senate primary will look like — and how candidates must embrace the far right to perform in a New Hampshire Republican primary.
Candidates like Matt Mowers and Gail Huff Brown have spent the past few months slamming the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, supporting abortion restrictions, and embracing Donald Trump’s Big Lie. All of those positions will be a major liability in a general election.
Both are actively considering jumping to the Senate. But even if they keep running for the House, their primary has offered a chilling preview of just how extreme the New Hampshire Republican Party is in 2021 — and how candidates need to embrace an extreme agenda to even be competitive.
Republicans’ Anti-Vax Base and Backlash to the Abortion Ban Is Still A Problem for the GOP
After signing an abortion ban with no exceptions for rape, incest, or fatal fetal anomaly that also included medically unnecessary mandatory ultrasounds and felony penalties for doctors, Chris Sununu saw his approval ratings go into free fall with independents and women. And voters punished Republicans in three separate special elections this fall and during the municipal election for signing an abortion ban.
Sununu may not be in the race, but New Hampshire’s deeply unpopular abortion ban will continue to be an albatross around whoever is the Republican nominee — and it will be a particular problem for lawmakers like Chuck Morse who played a central role in making it law.
The Republican base is angry and will demand that the Republican field take extreme and fringe positions — especially when it comes to public health. An anti-vax mob shut down a recent Executive Council meeting and forced the Executive Council and Fiscal Committee to initially reject federal funding for vaccinations. They even protested Governor Chris Sununu, and after Republicans on the fiscal committee voted Friday to approve federal funds for vaccinations, protestors shouted that they will “never get elected again." These angry anti-vaxxers have already pushed the NH GOP to be firmly anti-vax — and expect them to play a central role in a Senate primary.
Conclusion: While Republicans Court Trump and the Far Right, Senator Hassan’s Focus Will Be On Delivering for Granite Staters While the candidates running against her are bogged down in the most vicious, divisive Republican primary in two decades, Senator Hassan will continue to focus on her record of getting results for Granite Staters. While Republicans lobby for Donald Trump’s endorsement, Senator Hassan will continue to talk about her record of working across the aisle to deliver for the Granite Staters – from negotiating the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal to helping end surprise medical billing. The GOP’s race to the right, its embrace of Donald Trump and fractured field will severely weaken whoever emerges as the Republican nominee.