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GOP projects confidence in New Hampshire House race as national prospects dim

Top GOP congressional hopefuls seem convinced they will pierce the six-year Democratic hegemony over New Hampshire’s congressional delegation in November — an optimism seemingly at odds with a recent flurry of polls pointing to a fading red wave.

Leading Republican candidates in the crowded field for the 1st Congressional District, the more competitive of the state’s two congressional seats, are warning primary voters not to blow the opportunity, positing themselves as the most viable option. Rep. Chris Pappas (D-NH), who holds the seat, has been listed as one of the most vulnerable House Democrats in the country.


“There has never been a better time to defeat Chris Pappas, flip this district red … and take back the house. But again, the primary is everything. We cannot afford to elect a Never-Trump, establishment hack,” hopeful Karoline Leavitt told the Washington Examiner.

Karoline Leavitt
Republican Congressional candidate Karoline Leavitt, center, answers a question as candidate Anthony Sabatini, left, and Turning Point CEO Charlie Kirk, right, listen during the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit, Saturday, July 23, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP

Leavitt, a 25-year-old former assistant to the White House press secretary in the Trump administration, has positioned herself as an unabashed acolyte of former President Donald Trump and a champion of “MAGA” causes. She is one of the two leading candidates in the Republican race for the 1st District alongside former Trump aide Matt Mowers.

Mowers, who was a senior White House adviser at the State Department for the Trump administration, believes the “devastating consequences” of Democratic rule in the 1st District will animate voters to turn on Pappas. He pointed to rising inflation, the baby formula shortage, and high gas prices as plights that he insists have been hitting residents of his district hard.

Matt Mowers
Matt Mowers speaks before a campaign rally for President Donald Trump at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, Friday, Aug. 28, 2020, in Londonderry, N.H. Mowers is a Republican candidate in the 1st Congressional District in New Hampshire’s Nov. 3 general election. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Charles Krupa/AP

“Middle-class families are being left literally in the cold because of the policies of Joe Biden and Chris Pappas. So folks know that we need to change in D.C. this time,” he told the Washington Examiner.

Leavitt has echoed similar sentiments, blasting Democrats for a plethora of problems dogging the nation.

“The Democrats are hellbent on turning America into a socialist country with the unmitigated spending, the open border invasion, that’s sending an unprecedented amount of fentanyl to my state of New Hampshire here, and the war they’ve been waging on parents and small business owners,” she said.

Pappas, for his part, has sought to cast himself as a centrist, willing to buck party lines when the Democrats skew too far to the Left. Recently, he knocked President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness program, arguing it was not targeted enough and impedes Congress’s constitutional authority.

In the last election, Pappas edged out Mowers 51.3% to 46.2%, a point that Leavitt has raised during her heated primary battle, chiding that her chief rival doesn’t have what it takes to win. Mowers, who ran a closer race against Pappas than Trump did statewide in 2020, argued it was a difficult time to campaign against an incumbent due to pandemic-induced shutdowns. Now, he enjoys more robust name recognition and has the experience to win, he said.

Chris Pappas
U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas, D-N.H., during a hearing, Monday, March 14, 2022, in Manchester, N.H. New England law enforcement officials gathered with legislators for a senate subcommittee field hearing in New Hampshire to focus on actions the U.S. can take to crack down on fentanyl trafficking from Mexico and China(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Charles Krupa/AP

“When we were able to go out and start doing that, I was able to get my message out to people. And I’m confident that now, folks are able to see and hear our message every single day,” he said.


Cook Political Report currently deems the 2022 district fight a toss-up. State Republicans have long had their sights on the 1st District, which has been stubbornly resistant to Republican rule. It has only gone to the GOP twice in the past decade, both races won by former Rep. Frank Guinta (R-NH).

Haunted by their congressional drought, state Republicans hoped to seize on the decennial redistricting process to carve it into an easy pickup. However, Gov. Chris Sununu scuttled those efforts by deploying his veto power twice, ushering in a court intervention. Like the prior arrangement, the district has a +1 Republican advantage, according to FiveThirtyEight.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has already signaled some of its lines of attack against Leavitt and Mowers should they get the nomination, making statements criticizing them over abortion and the 2020 election. Leavitt has been adamant that the 2020 election was “stolen.”

“I am the only Republican candidate in this race to say that the 2020 election was stolen from President Trump. And there’s absolutely no way that Joe Biden legitimately won 81 million votes,” she said.

Mowers has asserted that “election integrity is so important.” While he stopped short of declaring that the 2020 election was rigged outright in an interview with the Washington Examiner, he argued that Republicans got “screwed” in that election.

“I think Republicans got screwed, because whether it was Big Tech and Big Media colluding together to censor stories, or whether it was secretaries of state and suddenly changing laws without really any constitutional grounding. … Unfortunately, that led to what we saw occur,” he said.

Mowers has earned the backing of a number of high-profile Republicans such as Chris Christie and Nikki Haley — politicos Leavitt disparaged as “Never Trumpers.”

“The Democrats will beat him over the coals, and he will fumble and lose to Chris Pappas, again — we cannot have a two-time loser,” she said. “I’m proud to be the American First candidate in this race, and we will prevail in November.”

Throughout her campaign, Leavitt has leaned on her communications background to deliver a MAGA message to voters. But Mowers has countered, juxtaposing himself as a battle-tested conservative against a political neophyte. He has sought to remind voters of his time in the Trump administration.  

“I was proud to have done that and serve this administration, where we accomplished so much, whether it was disrupting the international drug networks issue that hits close to home here in New Hampshire … [or making] America energy independent,” he said.


In addition to the showdown in the 1st District, Republicans are also hoping for a breakthrough in the Senate and to oust incumbent Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH). She appears to have dodged a bullet with Sununu and former Sen. Kelly Ayotte (D-NH) both declining to run.

Given the narrow margins in both the House and the Senate, both races could be paramount to the two parties’ hopes to control either chamber of Congress after the midterm elections.

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