MEMO: The “Messy” NH GOP Senate Primary Enters a New Phase of Chaos After Lackluster Fundraising
TOPLINE: For three months, the New Hampshire Republican Senate primary has been defined by its “B-Tier” candidates and labeled “crazy,” “complicated,” “messy,” and “anonymous” by longtime political observers. Now, the primary enters a new phase of chaos following Chuck Morse, Kevin Smith, and Don Bolduc’s lackluster Q1 fundraising numbers, which have already prompted two potential Trump-backed candidates to consider joining the race. The entrance of the two potential candidates, along with the entrance of Bruce Fenton into the race, will throw the primary into more chaos and make it even messier than it already is. Morse, Smith, and Bolduc’s Q1 Fundraising Numbers Are “Just Not Competitive,” Dwarfed by Senator Hassan's Record-Breaking Haul
Senator Hassan once again broke New Hampshire fundraising records, raising $4.3 million in the first quarter of 2022 which is more than 3.4 times the total of the entire Republican field. Ninety-five percent of contributions this quarter were $100 or less and the campaign now has contributions from at least 228 cities and towns across New Hampshire.
Then there are the “B-Tier” Senate candidates. Chuck Morse — the top fundraiser on the Republican side brought in “just 17% of what Senator Hassan raised” in the first quarter. Don Bolduc’s fundraising dropped by nearly a third since last quarter. There’s already speculation from NH Today’s Chris Ryan that with Town Manager Kevin Smith’s average donation being just under $1,000 per person, “we might want to see a little bit more there in regard to whether there was a loan or something of that nature that Smith gave to the campaign.”
All of the candidates are struggling to attract grassroots donors. Chuck Morse’s average donation was $938 and Kevin Smith’s was $911 — and each had just a few hundred donors.
The Republicans’ abysmal fundraising comes after top Donald Trump advisor Corey Lewandowski said that any Republican candidate raising $750,000 or $1 million in the first quarter is “just not competitive,” and former 2020 GOP Senate nominee Corky Messner said that if any of them are struggling to raise money, they should drop out of the race entirely.
Two Potential Trump-Backed Candidates Are Considering Joining the Race, Adding to the Chaos
Corey Lewandowski has made it clear that Trump just isn’t that impressed with the current slate of candidates, and has tasked Lewandowski with making sure someone “great” gets into the race and wins the primary. Lewandowski believes “the field isn’t complete yet” and “Donald Trump's endorsement will be the determining factor of who the Republican nominee is for the United States Senate.”
There are multiple reports that the two Republicans who are considering joining the crowded primary could potentially snag Trump’s endorsement. For weeks, Lewandowski has hinted that another candidate — potentially Wendy Long, a Republican who ran twice for US Senate in New York in 2012 and 2016 — has a “100 percent” chance of joining the primary and could very well get Trump’s support. Meanwhile, WMUR reported that Vikram Mansharamani, “an entrepreneur and investor from Lincoln” is also considering joining. Mansharamani has signed on political consultants who would provide “a direct link to the world of former President Donald Trump, which could be valuable in a GOP primary in which the former president’s endorsement is expected to play an outsized role.”
Infighting Has Already Consumed the Primary – And is Set to Get Even Worse
The NH GOP Senate primary is labeled "messy" because the candidates continue to engage in constant infighting that could ruin their already terrible fundraising prospects.
During an interview on NH Today with Chris Ryan, Corky Messner said that if "Republicans continue to fight amongst themselves throughout the summer, I think the likelihood of a Republican beating Hassan is very, very low,” adding that fundraising in the summer would be challenging because donors don't like giving money to candidates trying to tear each other down, which these candidates already are.
On the same day that WMUR reported on Mansharamani’s potential candidacy, Kevin Smith’s campaign advisor Mike Dennehy went on the offensive, tweeting, “the new American dream: move to NH, register to vote and run for US Senate! It’s the in-thing” which prompted Mansharamani’s advisor Mike Biundo to respond saying, “I got to be honest, Michael - it kind of read like a shot. A premature shot, but a shot.”
In the same week, Chuck Morse’s campaign released a memo that took a jab at Don Bolduc after Bolduc’s campaign memo slammed Morse and Smith for being “establishment-backed candidates” and failing to connect with voters.
Republicans Have Made Opposing Solutions to Lower Costs a Central Part of Their Campaigns
There is wide bipartisan support for a gas tax holiday, but Morse, Smith, and Bolduc have spent months making their opposition to Senator Hassan’s proposal to suspend the gas tax a central part of their campaigns. Now, after months of being in the race, the main policy takeaway Granite Staters have is that New Hampshire Republican Senate candidates are running against bringing down costs.
Last week, Chuck Morse doubled down on his opposition to a gas tax holiday, prompting his Republican State Senate to kill the proposal. Meanwhile, Smith’s opposition to suspending the gas tax has “revealed splits among Republicans running for other offices.” Smith was at odds with a fellow Republican at a GOP press conference last month for opposing Senator Hassan’s proposal to suspend the gas tax.
Ultimately, the GOP field’s incessant opposition to a gas tax holiday and lowering costs for Granite Staters has “established their entire brand about just being against things, not being for things.”
Get Ready to See a Lot More of Mitch McConnell
According to a new report from the Washington Examiner, Mitch McConnell's super PAC "is poised to make major investments" over the coming months in New Hampshire leading up to the general election. McConnell’s shady super PACs have already spent months dumping millions of dollars in false attack ads into the state. McConnell’s influence will only get stronger – which is terrible news for the NH GOP Senate candidates.
McConnell has also touted Chuck Morse in interviews with national reporters, one of McConnell’s former staffers at the National Republican Senatorial Committee is working for Don Bolduc, and Kevin Smith took time away from his taxpayer-funded job to travel to meet with McConnell’s campaign arm and his top lieutenant, Senator Rick Scott.
Conclusion: While the Republican Senate candidates spend the next five months battling it out in their messy primary for Trump’s endorsement and McConnell’s special interest money, Senator Hassan remains focused on delivering for New Hampshire.