Don Bolduc: Trump ally’s victory in the New Hampshire GOP primary completes the Senate battleground map



CNN

New Hampshire Republicans have blocked their decision to nominate Don Bolduc to hire Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan in the last key matchup in the November Senate control battle.

Bolduc, a retired Army brigadier general who has endorsed former President Donald Trump’s reelection bid, will defeat state Senate President Chuck Morse, who has endorsed him. GOP Gov. Chris Sununu and national Republicans rushed to defeat Bolduc, who they saw as a weaker general election candidate against Hassan.

In the equally divided Senate, where Republicans need a clean one-seat win to flip the chamber, Hassan is one of four Democratic incumbents Republicans are seeking to elect this year. But as they have done across the country, some candidates who have followed in Trump’s footsteps in Hampshire have drawn concern among GOP leaders because of their poor fundraising and hard-right rhetoric.

The New Hampshire primary, which opened after Sununu rebuffed efforts by national Republicans to recruit him, has been a window into the GOP battle that has raged across the political map this spring and summer.

Bolduc, who lost the GOP Senate nod two years ago, brought in just $600,000 as of Aug. 24 compared to Hassan’s $31.4 million. He also has a penchant for saying controversial things, some of which he has backtracked on. But in response, Sununu called Bolduc a “conspiracy theory-type candidate” and “not a serious candidate” in an interview with WGIR last month.

In an op-ed in Sunday’s New Hampshire Union Leader, Sununu wrote that “the stakes are too high for New Hampshire and America,” adding that Republicans need a candidate who “will have the resources to compete in the most crucial battleground.” America”.

However, Republican voters again rejected establishment preferences and opted for a candidate who has more closely aligned with Trump, even if doing so came at the cost of electability in November.

A season of losing recruiting primaries by top Republicans left the party without the strongest candidates in the race, including governors like Sununu and Arizona’s Doug Ducey, who chose against taking on Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly. Then, a summer of bruising Senate primaries — many of which were shaped by Trump endorsements and demands by Trump voters about candidates admitting lies about election fraud — left Republicans worried about the quality of the party’s candidates and struggling to shut down Democratic fundraising. the advantage

Republicans hoped that inflation and the historic reactions of new presidents to midterm elections would lead the party to majorities in the House and Senate in November, delivering victories in competitive races across the map regardless of the candidates in those races.

But gas prices have fallen. Biden and the Democrat-controlled Congress have implemented more of the president’s agenda. Democratic candidates have outraised most of their GOP Senate rivals in fundraising. The FBI’s search for Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate has again raised the profile of how it is galvanizing liberals and alienating suburban voters. And perhaps most significantly, the Supreme Court’s June decision to end federal protections for abortion rights appears to have emboldened segments of the electorate who feared Democrats would flee the party or sit out the midterms.

Early signs of a more even Midwest landscape came in Democratic victories in a special election in a bellwether House district in upstate New York and a key state House seat in Alaska’s special election, which has been held by the GOP. for nearly half a century, as well as overwhelming voter support for abortion rights in Kansas’ first ballot referendum.

Meanwhile, the handful of Republican candidates who won the primaries, many with Trump’s backing, have struggled to expand their appeal to a wider electorate in critical states (including Arizona, Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Nevada). today it is split 50-50.

As GOP groups ramp up spending on television ads, the message in several key states is shifting away from Biden’s attack on inflation. Instead, those ads target Democrats on crime and policing.

A recent example: In an ad published Monday in Wisconsin, the National Republican Senatorial Committee called Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, a Democrat challenging Sen. Ron Johnson, “dangerous” and a “Democrat cop-out.”

Barnes, in his ad two weeks ago, said that Republicans are trying to scare voters, and that the claim that they want to defund the police is “a lie.”

“I will make sure our police have the resources and training they need to keep our communities safe, and that our communities have the resources to stop crime before it happens,” Barnes says at the scene.

The turnaround strategy underscores how volatile the playing field is in the battle for control of the Senate, just eight weeks away from the Nov. 8 election.

In August, Republican campaigns and groups spent $25 million airing more than 160 ads about inflation, and about $11 million airing 80 ads about crime, according to AdImpact data. In the two weeks so far in September, Republicans have spent about $9 million on 89 ads on inflation, and about $9 million on 54 ads on crime.

In Ohio’s primary Senate race, Republican JD Vance released an ad last week saying, “The streets are bursting with drugs and violence, while liberals enjoy it. [Democratic opponent] Tim Ryan will attack our police and take him down.

Ryan has repeatedly shied away from “getting rid of the police.” In the end ad in which he throws footballs at television screens showing Republican ads, saying: “Here come the culture wars; I’m not that guy,” showing the phrase “get rid of the police” as a football crashes into a screen.

Democratic Senate candidates have so far outspent their Republican rivals in races in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania, forcing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to try to close the gap by aligning himself outside the GOP caucus. As the campaign season shifts into a new gear after Labor Day, the Senate Leadership Fund, for example, will dramatically increase spending. Super PACs have put nearly $200 million in ad reserves over the next two months, according to AdImpact data, the most of any political advertiser.

In Pennsylvania’s crucial Senate race, for example, Democratic candidate John Fetterman is under attack with an ad highlighting his support for various prison reforms, with the refrain: “John Fetterman, far-left, dangerously liberal on crime.” Fetterman, like other Democratic candidates this year, has been vocal about funding the police.

Last week’s SLF poll showed the FEC increased its commitment in several key states: $3.7 million to Pennsylvania, $3.7 million to Georgia, $3.5 million to North Carolina, $3 million to Ohio, $2.4 $1 million to Wisconsin and $2 million to Nevada. The additions will supplement the already massive reserves of the battleground states. SLF previously reserved $38 million in Georgia, $33 million in Pennsylvania, $28 million in North Carolina, $27 million in Ohio, $19 million in New Hampshire, $16 million in Nevada, $15 million in Wisconsin and $10 million in Arizona.

GOP spending in North Carolina and Ohio underscores Democrats’ success in expanding the race map. Both seats are held by retiring Republican senators, and are vital to the GOP’s chances of winning the chamber in November.

In Florida, Democratic Rep. Val Demings also beat Republican Sen. Marco Rubio. Even though Rubio is favored to win re-election on the same ballot as potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis, who is seeking a second term, Demings’ nearly $25 million in TV ads has outspent Rubio and Republicans by about 4. -to-1 margin. Much of his message has drawn on his experience as a former Orlando police chief to try to counter Republican attempts to align himself with the more liberal members of his own party. “I will protect Florida from bad ideas like getting rid of the police,” he said at one point.

The candidates are debating whether, when and how often to debate several midterm contests, including in Pennsylvania, where Fetterman, the Democratic lieutenant governor who suffered a stroke this spring, has committed to just one. Show with Republican Mehmet Oz, who has sought five debates.

Fetterman said he will only discuss it in October. He said in a statement that he always intended to discuss Oz and that the hiatus was “never just about dealing with some lingering issues with the stroke, the auditory processing, and we’ll be able to work through that.” ”, but he did not give any details.

“Let’s be clear – Dr. Oz’s campaign will not agree to a SECRET debate. It has to be a REAL one, with REAL reporters asking REAL questions. Sorry, John – imaginary debates don’t work!” Oz communications director Brittany Yanick said in response.

As Oz’s team raises questions about Fetterman’s health, Democrats have hammered Oz for past remarks calling abortion “murder,” and his allies warned Sunday that Oz would be a “rubber stamp” for a national ban.

“Women are the reason we win,” Fetterman said at a rally in the Philadelphia suburbs. “Don’t anger women.”

In Georgia, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and his Republican opponent, former University of Georgia football star Herschel Walker, have been engaged in a months-long debate over the issue.

Walker declined to participate in a debate during the GOP primary. Warnock has sought three debates, and Walker has said he will debate Warnock on Oct. 14 in Savannah. Warnock responded by saying he would debate Walker if Walker agreed to another debate.

A person familiar with the Republican nominee’s thinking told CNN last week that Walker will not agree to another debate, bringing the two candidates back to square one.

Debates usually cover the races in recent weeks. The limited numbers in several key races, including Pennsylvania and Georgia, could increase the importance of television ads as a primary way to reach voters – a reality that explains why McConnell and other top Republicans have increased their outreach to big donors and asked senators to transfer their campaigns. money to the Senate Leadership Fund.

“Democrats are going to outspend Republicans. But if we have enough money to tell our story and defend our opposition, I think we’ll be fine,” Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a member of McConnell’s leadership team, said last week.