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The Boston Globe Examines How Republicans’ “Self-Inflicted Wounds” Have Damaged Their Chances

In a new piece for the Boston Globe, James Pindell examines how Republicans’ “self-inflicted” wounds and chaotic and messy primary threaten to severely damage their chances of winning New Hampshire’s Senate race. Pindell reports on how Chris Sununu’s decision not to run for US Senate created a “vacuum” that has set up Republicans for a long and divided primary that won’t end until September 13 — just weeks before Election Day. The Globe’s piece is just the latest report on the severe challenges facing Republican Senate candidates in New Hampshire. Just this morning, a leading NH political operative called the primary a “hot mess” and others have predicted a Republican contest “full of bloodletting” and “B-tier candidates” that New Hampshire voters “know next to nothing about.” Boston Globe: N.H. was supposed to be the GOP’s best chance for a Senate pickup in 2022. After a few Republican false starts, it’s unclear where things stand. KEY EXCERPTS:

Last fall, Republicans were nearly salivating over the opportunity to defeat Democratic US Senator Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire, and with that flip the 50-50 Senate back to Republican control. [...] Then it all changed. And one tactical move may have cost the Republicans dearly. First, Sununu announced in early November that he would not be a candidate. Minutes later, former US senator Kelly Ayotte also declined to run in what would be a rematch with Hassan from 2016. Roughly 30 minutes after that, Scott Brown, the 2014 Senate Republican nominee, also declined a run. Suddenly all the big-name Republicans were sitting out on what was still a big chance opportunity. By the end of the day calls were being made to encourage state Senate President Chuck Morse to run. Morse may have run for governor had Sununu given up the seat for the Senate run, but he seemed to be at least receptive to the idea. He rarely sent out e-mail fund-raising pitches, but Morse began doing so with clever language meant to wink at the idea that he could jump into the Senate race at any moment. He didn’t then. He didn’t a month later. In fact, for a period Morse just went dark. But he eventually did join the race two months later with an announcement in early January and a kick-off event at his small business last weekend. Had he entered the race in November, he likely would have found the field essentially cleared for him. The one Republican already in the race, retired Army brigadier general Don Bolduc, wasn’t raising the money needed to compete with the $14 million Hassan had already raised. Morse's hesitance created a vacuum and a belief that there wasn’t anyone committed to running. Soon Londonderry town manager Kevin Smith, a affable former candidate for governor, was being talked into running. And why wouldn’t Smith run? He has been basically out of politics for a decade and the Republican nomination was up for grabs in what could be a huge Republican year. In the end, Smith and Morse announced their candidacies within a day of each other. Neither is a more dominant presence than the other. [...] But now we have a primary in mid-September and just a six weeks-long general election in which the winner will need to replenish funds, campaign full time against Hassan, and smooth things over with Republicans who opposed him. [...] This is a contest where an endorsement from Donald Trump could provide clarity and be helpful early on in cleaning up a primary. But there is a real reason why he should sit this one out. Morse backed Jeb Bush in the 2016 Republican presidential primary. The last time Smith made a public endorsement for president it was for Rudy Giuliani, back when he was the most moderate serious option. And, while Bolduc and Trump did briefly talk months ago, Trump endorsed Bolduc’s primary opponent when he ran for the Senate two years ago. While Trump could be helpful to Republicans if he made an endorsement soon, it should be noted that in 2020 the state didn’t for vote Trump and didn’t vote for the people he endorsed for Senate or Congress, either. So it is unclear if the Trump endorsement would be a problem for a candidate in the general election. Read the full story at The Boston Globe.