New Hampshire voters will chisel down a field of 11 Republican primary candidates on Sept. 13 in one of the country’s most consequential U.S. Senate races.
The Granite State race’s outcome could affect the balance of power in the Senate, either handing it back to Republicans or solidifying Democratic control.
The top finisher in New Hampshire’s GOP primary will face the state’s Democratic nominee in the November general election. That race pits first-term incumbent Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) against two challengers from her party.
Hassan, a former New Hampshire governor, is expected to move forward. While she holds a slight edge in the fall, according to political forecasters who weigh in on races around the country, pundits often use the term “vulnerable” when describing Hassan’s chances for reelection.
Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) speaks at a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs/Rules and Administration Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on March 3, 2021. (Shawn Thew/Pool via Getty Images)
Officially, the race is considered competitive. That’s why everyone is watching.
The U.S. Senate currently is split 50–50 between Democrats and Republicans, with Vice President Kamala Harris, a Democrat, casting any tie-breaking votes.
Until recently, the country’s leading prognosticators had been predicting Republicans would pick up one to three 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. Money for advertising has poured in from political action committees (PAC) controlled by Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats seeking to influence the race.
The beneficiary of the most spending is nursery owner Chuck Morse, a Republican who has 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 by outsiders in support of Hassan, and about $549,000 has been spent to oppose her.
New Hampshire’s voting history shows that the state appears to be getting more toward Democrats. 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.
Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks at “Politics and Eggs” at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., on Aug. 17, 2022. (Scott Eisen/Getty Images)
However, New Hampshire residents may be ready for a change, according to a poll conducted on Aug. 9 through Aug. 11 by the Saint Anselm College Survey Center at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics.
In the poll, 68 percent of respondents said the country is on the wrong track, the same finding as in March, which may present a problem for Hassan. Meanwhile, since March, Hassan’s approval rating has slipped along with President Joe Biden’s. Only 45 percent surveyed say 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 New Hampshire Institute of Politics Executive Director Neil Levesque.
Topping the list of voters’ concerns were the economy and inflation, presented in the poll as one issue, which was the biggest consideration for 28 percent of respondents.
A customer shops in a Kroger grocery store on July 15 in Houston. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)
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.
The recent Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade has energized some in the pro-choice camp. About 58 percent of those surveyed told pollsters that they’re more motivated to vote because of the decision.
Others said they’re motivated by GOP values and plan to let their vote reflect that. In a state where residents who are 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 would vote for Democrats.
That’s another potential hiccup for Hassan.
Although Morse has generated the most political contributions among Republicans, voters seem to favor retired U.S. Army Gen. Don Bolduc.
Retired U.S. Army Gen. Don Bolduc is a Republican candidate running for the New Hampshire Senate seat held by incumbent Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.). (Courtesy of Bolduc 2022)
In the August poll, 32 percent of those polled said they would vote for Bolduc, while 16 percent chose Morse. Londonderry, New Hampshire, town manager Kevin Smith and financial manager Bruce Fenton were tied for third place, with support of 4 percent of the voters surveyed.
A RealClearAverage of that poll and another in August predict that Bolduc could outdraw 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 4 percentage points, while Morse was indicated at 4.3 points behind Hassan in the general election.
Critics say Bolduc’s conservative 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 believes that he’s best prepared to serve in the Senate. He remains unapologetic about his tough-talking platform.
Bolduc says it’s what Granite Staters want. They’re angry, he says.
He has traveled to every town and city in the state since beginning his campaign six days after the 2020 election. He’s been widely criticized within his party for saying that the former president won the election.
In terms of fundraising, Bolduc is fifth with almost $579,000 in campaign contributions, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) records on the finances of all candidates.
That could be a problem for Republicans. The candidate advancing to the fall contest against Hassan will need cash for advertising. She has raised more than $31 million, and spent more than $24 million on the race so far, FEC records show.
Bolduc could be in luck, however. 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 has 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 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 GOP candidates to participate in a televised debate on Aug. 24. At the time, polling indicated that 39 percent of voters were still undecided, leaving the race very much up for grabs.
All four Republicans 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 four candidates pledged to support the winning Republican after the primary, except for Fenton, who said, “We’ll see.”
When Morse interjected that the answer came as no surprise because Fenton had supported Democrat John Kerry in his 2004 presidential race against George W. Bush, Fenton fumed.
Financial manager Bruce Fenton is running in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate on Sept. 13 with the hopes of advancing to take on incumbent Democrat Maggie Hassan. (Courtesy of Bruce Fenton for Liberty)
“I won’t support tyrants!” he said in an escalating voice. “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, which is responsible for a flood of deadly fentanyl flowing into U.S. communities, the other three candidates said. They all insisted that the border should be closed and secured with a wall.
However, Fenton 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, according to Fenton. But regulations should be adopted to make things easier for would-be immigrants, he said.
He 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,” Fenton said, noting that the government shouldn’t have a 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 that he would “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,” according to Fenton.
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.
Then-President Donald Trump speaks at an airport hanger at a rally a day after he formally accepted his party’s nomination at the Republican National Convention in Londonderry, N.H., on Aug. 28, 2020. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
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 also 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, as well as 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, you’ll have this economy humming again,” he said. “Big League.”
Smith, Bolduc, and Morse promised support for measures to promote energy independence. All three advocated for “peace through strength” policies that come from beefing up the military.
But no more money should flow to Ukraine without a justifiable strategy that can be “explained to the American people,” Bolduc noted.
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?”
Fenton said he’s against all “military misadventures around the world.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian speaks during a press conference in Beijing on March 18. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/REUTERS)
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,” he said. “But that’s just not the case, and China is the biggest threat to that.”
Bolduc proposed a “China resistance strategy.”
“We need to ensure that we have free and fair trade,” he 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.
“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.”