Granite State Voters Set To Chisel Down Primary Field for US Senate
New Hampshire voters will chisel down the field of 11 Republican primary candidates on Sept. 13 in one of the country’s most consequential U.S. Senate races.
The race’s outcome could affect the balance of power in the Senate, either handing it back to Republicans, or solidifying Democrat control.
The top finisher in New Hampshire’s GOP primary will advance to face the winner of the state’s Democratic primary. That race pits first-term incumbent Sen. Maggie Hassan against two challengers from her party.
Hassan, a former governor of New Hampshire, is expected to move forward. And she holds a slight edge in the fall, say political forecasters who weigh in on races around the country. But pundits often use the term “vulnerable” when describing Hassan’s hold on her Senate seat.
Officially, the race is considered competitive, forecasters agree. That’s why everyone is watching.
The U.S. Senate currently is split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, with Vice President Kamala Harris (D) casting any tie-breaking votes.
Until recently, the country’s leading prognosticators had been predicting Republicans would pick up 1-3 seats in the Senate, retaking control. Now, they say, one party is likely to have a net gain of one seat, but it’s not clear which is favored.
Former president Donald Trump has stayed oddly quiet on his pick in the New Hampshire Republican primary field. Meanwhile, money for advertising has poured in from political action committees (PACs) controlled by Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats in the hopes of influencing the race.
Sparking the most spending is nursery owner Chuck Morse, a Republican who’s served for eight years as the state’s senate president, a job that pays just $125 per year.
More than $4.6 million has been spent by outsiders in support of Morse, according to OpenSecrets, which tracks money in politics. Almost $3.3 million has been spent to oppose him.
A little more than $1 million has been spent on outside support for Hassan, and about $549,000 has been spent to oppose her.
Tight races like New Hampshire’s are considered critical, and every one matters, now that the promised Red Wave has failed to materialize, and Senate control could go either way.
New Hampshire’s voting history shows the state appears to be getting more blue. In presidential elections, it had a history of sticking with Republicans for a few cycles, then shifting to favor Democrats, in a seesaw pattern.
But since 1992, the state has selected a Democrat for president every year but 2000.
Granite Staters, as they’re called, may be ready for a change, though, suggests a new poll conducted Aug. 9-11 by the Saint Anselm College Survey Center at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics.
In it, 68 percent of respondents who said the country is on the wrong track, the same finding as in March, a problem for Hassan.
And since March, Hassan’s approval rating has slipped, along with President Joe Biden’s. Only 45 percent surveyed said they approve of the job Hassan is doing. And 53 percent said it’s time “to give someone new a chance” in the U.S. Senate.
“Voter concerns favor Republican candidates,” said institute director Neil Levesque.
Topping the list of voters’ concerns were the economy and inflation, presented in the poll as one issue, and the biggest consideration for 28 percent of respondents.
Government spending and taxes, represented as one issue, posed the biggest concern for 13 percent of voters surveyed. Abortion topped the list of important issues for 12 percent of voters.
Indeed, the recent Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade has energized some in the pro-choice crowd in New Hampshire. About 58 percent told pollsters they are more motivated to vote since the decision.
Others say they’re motivated by Republican values, and plan to let their vote reflect that. In a state where residents at least 18 years old can register to vote as late as Election Day, 46 percent said they were planning to vote Republican. And 43 percent said they’d vote on the Democratic ballot.
That’s another potential hiccup for Hassan.
Though Morse has generated the most spending among Republicans, voters seem to favor retired U.S. Army general Don Bolduc.
In the August poll, 32 percent said they’d vote for Bolduc, and 16 percent chose Morse. Londonderry town manager Kevin Smith and financial manager Bruce Fenton were tied for third place with support from four percent of voters surveyed.
A RealClearAverage of that poll and another in August predicts Bolduc could beat his closest competitor by 18.5 percent.
Whether he poses a serious threat to Hassan remains to be seen.
In polls conducted between December 2021 and April, Bolduc trailed the incumbent by about four percent. The same polls suggested Morse would fall 4.3 points behind Hassan in the general election.
The other two candidates were even further behind the incumbent.
Critics have said Bolduc’s hard-right stance on issues could make him less successful against Hassan than a more moderate Republican could be.
But after decades of working in military leadership around the world, and briefing Congress and heads of state, he’s best prepared to serve in the Senate, he insists. And he remains unapologetic about his tough-talking platform.
He says it’s what Granite Staters want. They’re angry, he says.
Bolduc has traveled to every town and city since launching his campaign six days after the 2020 election that ousted Trump. He’s been widely criticized within his party for saying Trump won.
In raising money, Bolduc hangs in fifth place, with almost $579,000 in campaign contributions, according to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) records on the finances of all candidates in the race.
That could be a problem for Republicans. The candidate advancing to the fall contest with Hassan will need cash for advertising. She’s raised more than $31 million, and spent more than $24 million on the race so far, FEC records show.
Bolduc could be in luck, though. Cash-heavy corporate PACs have signaled their approval for candidates who share his views, giving more than $22.2 million to “election objectors since Jan. 6” protests at the U.S. Capitol, according to an Aug. 25 report by OpenSecrets.
The Republican money leader in New Hampshire’s Senate race is Fenton. A proponent of using Bitcoin, instead of U.S. currency, he’s raked in more than $1.8 million in donations, and spent only about $120,000.
In second place, Morse has raised almost $1.6 million, and has spent nearly $1 million. Smith is fourth in money raising, bringing in almost $842,000 and spending all but $250,000.
Newsmax invited the Top Four candidates to participate in a televised debate on Aug. 24. At the time, polling indicated that 39 percent of voters were still undecided, and the race could be up for grabs.
All four candidates agreed during the debate on a variety of issues, such as supporting term limits and promising to run for no more than two terms in the Senate. And all four agreed that the raid on Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida home, was wrong.
“It gets down to the nitty-gritty of why Americans don’t respect and don’t trust the Department of Justice,” Bolduc said.
All pledged to support the winning Republican after the primary, except for Fenton, who said, “We’ll see.”
And when Morse interjected that the answer was no surprise, because Fenton had supported Democrat John Kerry in his 2000 presidential race against George W. Bush, Fenton fumed.
In an escalating voice, he said, “I won’t support tyrants! I won’t do it, Chuck! I won’t do it! I can’t do it! I can’t lie to these people! I’m going down there to vote against tyrants. That includes you, I’m afraid.”
Fenton also differed on illegal immigration and the crisis at the border, responsible for a flood of deadly fentanyl into American communities, the other three candidates said. They all insisted the border should be closed and secured with a wall.
Fenton, however, said he supports a “much more open immigration policy” that shows “compassion for people coming for a better life.”
Laws on immigration should be enforced, and entitlements for illegal border-crossers should be eliminated, he said. But regulations should be adopted to make things easier for would-be immigrants, he added.
Fenton also took a unique stand on Medicare.
After Bolduc expressed a need for reforming Medicare because “anything that the government is involved in is not good and does not work,” Fenton chimed in.
“Medicare is one of the many things that sounds good, but it isn’t,” he said, adding that the government shouldn’t have any role in health care. “Government corrupts everything that it touches.”
But he went further on his suggestions for restricting the size of government. While the other three candidates agreed that out-of-control spending in Washington must be curtailed, Fenton said, “I’d like to get government out of the money business.”
“Our money right now is broken,” he said. “Politicians broke it. They have unlimited money that they can print from thin air without accountability.”
People should use cryptocurrency, instead, because the dollar is “a melting ice cube,” Fenton said.
He described a path for tax relief for the middle class. His 3-2-1 Plan would cut taxes on the first $300,000 in business income, the first $200,000 in individual income, and the first $100,000 in investment income.
Smith, a self-described “conservative fixer,” countered, “Here’s how you make the economy run again. No. 1—you have to make the Trump tax cuts permanent.
“No. 2—you should lower the individual income-tax rate. You should lower corporate tax rates to make ourselves more competitive here.”
He proposed repealing a law that has caused higher costs for transporting oil and liquified natural gas.
And he suggested requiring a balanced budget every year, and a move to “cut the EPA regulations which stifle development.”
And in another nod to Trump, Smith concluded by using one of the former president’s trademark phrases.
“If you do that, if you do all of those things,” he said, “you’ll have this economy humming again. Big League.”
Smith, Bolduc, and Morse promised support for measures to promote energy independence. And all three advocated for “peace through strength” policies that come from beefing up the military, they said.
But no more money should flow to Ukraine without a justifiable strategy that can be “explained to the American people,” Bolduc added.
Fenton set himself apart again.
“Not one boot on the ground! Not one dollar! Not one American life!” he said forcefully. “I don’t understand how we can be having this discussion as Republicans. When are we going to learn? How many lives do we have to lose?”
He said he’s against all “military misadventures around the world.”
But Bolduc, a veteran of nearly 34 years, didn’t rule out the need for military action to keep the country safe. He called China an “existential threat.”
“I would love to live in a world where we didn’t need a military, we didn’t need walls, we didn’t need borders,” Bolduc said. “But that’s just not the case, and China is the biggest threat to that.”
He proposed a “China resistance strategy.”
“We need to ensure that we have free and fair trade,” Bolduc said.
“We need to get China out of our colleges and universities. We need to protect our businesses from China—they’re stealing our intellectual property. What China is doing to our businesses is terrible. We need to get them out of our stock exchange.”
He went on, “We need to have them stop buying farmland. They just bought farmland in North Dakota, just 20 miles from one of our most strategic bases! I mean, this is insane! We’ve got to stop them. We’ve got to stop them in this country! And if we don’t, we’re gonna be in big trouble, and we’re gonna see a war.”