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National Journal: The Anonymous GOP Primary In The Granite State

In case you missed it, a new report from National Journal examines the “vacuum” in the current NH GOP Senate primary in which “a viable GOP candidate has yet to emerge.The current GOP field is “lacking that heavyweight candidate” and all three of the unknown and disliked challengers “have significant weaknesses to overcome.” Although the candidates are “trying to be all things to all Republicans,” they are still suffering from low name recognition with voters. With three candidates already running — and the potential for more to get in soon — “it’s a recipe for volatility” that has left Republicans with “their work cut out for them.” National Journal: The Anonymous GOP Primary In The Granite State By Matt Holt After Gov. Chris Sununu spurned the Senate race in New Hampshire, the GOP primary has gone under the national radar. That is, until Gov. Chris Sununu decided against running. His decision to run for a fourth term in the governor’s office opened a vacuum from which a viable GOP candidate has yet to emerge. What was once going to be among the closest-watched Senate races moved further down the pecking order. Flashier, more expensive contests in Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada have taken up most of the oxygen, as have the brutal Republican primaries in North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. With President Biden’s approval ratings mired in the low-40’s, coupled with historical trends, Republicans smell blood in the water and are ramping up investments in key races. But the GOP might miss an opportunity in New Hampshire to tip the evenly divided Senate. Party officials and consultants from both sides of the aisle who have spoken with National Journal say they believe that the Senate race in New Hampshire will be a tight contest. But Republicans have their work cut out for them after they put their eggs in the Sununu basket. “With Sununu out of the race, we’re lacking that heavyweight candidate,” said Dante Scala, a professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire. “So what we’re left with is three candidates, all of whom have significant weaknesses to overcome.” The three candidates (so far) in the Sept. 9 primary are:

· State Senate President Chuck Morse, who was mulling a bid for governor if Sununu ran for Senate. He’s well respected among New Hampshire GOP insiders but not well known by midterm voters.

· Former Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith, who ran in the GOP gubernatorial primary in 2012 and lost.

· Retired Gen. Don Bolduc, who lost the 2020 GOP Senate primary to Bryant “Corky” Messner.

Despite securing 42 percent of the GOP primary vote two years ago, Bolduc is considered an outsider in the race. He entered 2022 with less than $60,000 cash on hand, while Hassan had $5.3 million.


Phil Taub, an attorney and influential GOP fundraiser in the state who considered his own Senate bid, told National Journal that Bolduc is not the same candidate he was two years ago—that he has a different team around him now and has fully embraced the far-right elements of the GOP.


“He’s been very critical of Governor Sununu, who continues to be the most popular and well-known Republican in statewide office,” Taub said. Bolduc called Sununu a “communist Chinese sympathizer” in an interview with radio host Jack Heath.


“You know, that’s not helpful to the cause,” Taub added. “But that’s the ground he decided to stake out.”


Taub is hardly the only GOP donor in the state with qualms about Bolduc. Bill Binnie, a media executive, told Heath that Bolduc “is not U.S. Senate material.”


Public polling on the GOP primary has been basically nonexistent, and because Morse and Smith did not file until after last quarter’s Federal Election Commission deadline, they have yet to disclose any fundraising numbers. However, one survey of the race illustrates the work ahead for Republicans.


A University of New Hampshire Granite State poll taken in December found that 55 percent did not know who Morse was and 76 percent did not know about Smith. Meanwhile, Bolduc was unknown to only 33 percent of voters, a benefit of his past Senate bid.

[...]

Donald Trump has played an outsized role in Republican primaries across the country, but in New Hampshire he is not as much of a factor. While Bolduc has embraced Trump’s election conspiracy theories and earned an email shout-out from the former president, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said on a local radio show that Bolduc’s comments about going all in on supporting Ukraine militarily and using special troop operations on the ground were disqualifying. Lewandowski added that Trump was keeping an eye on the primary field. In a recent interview with the Washington Examiner, Trump said he was planning to endorse in Missouri, Ohio, and Pennsylvania—but he left New Hampshire off the list.


Meanwhile, Morse and Smith have not embraced elements of Trumpism, as other Senate candidates around the country are tripping over themselves to do.


“They’re trying to be all things to all Republicans,” Scala said. “No one’s going out of their way to be anti-Trump.”


[...]


Read the full story at The National Journal