Don Bolduc, who made election denial the centerpiece of his campaign, defeated establishment favorite Chuck Morse in New Hampshire’s GOP Senate primary, the latest blow to Republicans’ hopes of regaining the chamber majority this fall.
Bolduc now joins the likes of Georgia’s Herschel Walker, Ohio’s JD Vance, Pennsylvania’s Mehmet Oz and Arizona’s Blake Masters as Republican candidates who ran and won the primaries, joining the coalition built by former President Donald Trump, but who appear. to have a lot of work when it comes to courting the general election audience. (Sidebar: Trump didn’t endorse Bolduc — or any other candidate — in the New Hampshire primary.)
During the campaign, Bolduc took some controversial positions, most notably that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. “I signed a letter with 120 other generals and admirals saying Trump won the election, and damn, I’m fine [it]” the retired Army brigadier general said during the August debate. He has also called for the repeal of the 17th Amendment, which allows voters to directly elect their senators. After the FBI executed a search warrant at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home, Bolduc questioned the agency’s need was it
Those positions caused enough concern about Bolduc’s viability in the general election that popular Republican New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, who stunned the political world by deciding not to run against the same Democratic senator Maggie Hassan, endorsed Morse.
“The Republican candidate Maggie Hassan is most afraid of facing in this election is small business owner and Senate President Chuck Morse,” Sununu wrote in an op-ed in the New Hampshire Union Leader over the weekend.
Sununu was more candid about Bolduc and his general election prospects last month. “He’s not a serious candidate, he’s not really,” Sununu said in a radio interview. “If he was elected, I have no doubt that we would have a much harder time trying to win that seat. So I don’t take him seriously as a candidate. I don’t think most people do.’
Sununu also cited Bolduc as part of an “extreme conspiracy theory” run for Republican Senate nominations across the country.
(For his part, Bolduc previously took Sununu out of the Senate race.)
Sununu wasn’t the only establishment figure excited about the possibility of Bolduc becoming the GOP nominee. A group with ties to a super PAC aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spent more than $4 million on ads in the latter part of the race to prevent Bolduc from winning.
For Republicans, the decline in New Hampshire’s competitiveness reflects their broader struggles in Senate races this cycle. The seat was widely seen early in the 2022 cycle as one of the top Republican pick-up options — because Hassan’s poll numbers were middling and Sununu was the likely candidate. Then, last November, Sununu surprisingly decided not to enter the race, announcing that he would seek another term as governor.
“I’d rather find myself driving 120 miles an hour to victory for New Hampshire than end up on Capitol Hill debating partisan politics to no avail,” he said at the time. “That’s why I’m running for a fourth term.”
Sununu’s decision caught McConnell and the rest of the Senate Republican establishment off guard, creating a void that Bolduc filled.
Even before Bolduc’s victory Tuesday, the race was showing signs of slipping away from Republicans. The Cook Political Report with Amy Walter, a nonpartisan disability tips page, rated her as a “skinny Democrat.” Given the extremes of Bolduc’s past positions and his weak fundraising — he had $84,000 in the bank as of Aug. 24 compared to Hassan’s $7.3 million — the race may be more competitive than that at this point.
For Republicans, it’s another setback in their recent struggles. Election forecasters now project that Democrats have a better than 70 percent chance of retaining their Senate majority in November, a possibility that was almost unthinkable when this election cycle began.