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New Hampshire votes
The US Senate swings in the balance
It is ironic that New Hampshire is known as first in presidential primaries, but for this midterm vote, the Granite State is at the back of the pack. Today is primary day, and many in the political know believe the New Hampshire Senate race is critical in determining if the upper chamber breaks blue or red in the next Congress.
Here are some pointers for understanding New Hampshire statewide elections.
New Hampshire allows undeclared voters to select the party of ballot of choice on primary day. [Ed: Undeclared voter for over 30 years and proud of it.]
Cross party shenanigans are common. So we can expect many undeclared Democrat-leaning voters to vote for the most Trumpy candidate tomorrow.
No statewide office seeker can win a general election without the support of a majority of undeclared registered voters.
Now for some background.
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Senator Maggie Hassan is standing for reelection today and is essentially an unopposed incumbent on the Democrat side. New Hampshire has a hierarchy. Maggie Hassan is no Jeanne Shaheen in popularity. She is vulnerable in good times, and most vulnerable this election cycle. Dollars to donuts that many undeclared blue voters will pull the lever Republican today. I am not complaining. That is the New Hampshire way.
The GOP front runner in the Senate race is retired Army general Don Bolduc. Two years ago Bolduc was a primary runner up in the vote to anoint who would be the sacrificial candidate to lose to Senator Jeanne Shaheen. The short story is that the national party does not care who squares off with Shaheen, unless a big name candidate throws their hat in the ring. An example of a serious candidate would be sitting Governor Chris Sununu or former senators Kelly Ayotte or Judd Gregg.
For years the state and national GOP kingpins have been waiting for 2022 to defeat Senator Hassan. She was a popular governor and in the Senate has the reputation of being a loyal Democrat who has drifted to the left with the party. Last November Governor Sununu upset the GOP apple cart by strongly declaring himself running for reelection to the corner office and not the Senate. Before the ink was dry on Sununu’s announcement, Kelly Ayotte declared herself not a Senate candidate.
There is no star power on the GOP side this primary, but there has been plenty of fireworks. General Bolduc was more than happy to run again. This incarnation of Bolduc is as a plain speaking populist trying to tap into the Trumpy side of the electorate. He is prone to what I consider gaffes. For example, characterizing Governor Sununu as a Chinese communist sympathizer is one of those head scratching proclamations. He was also one of those military folks that signed onto a letter suggesting the last presidential election was stolen. I could catalog more off track pronouncements from the general, but I will refrain. Bolduc has raised money the outsider way, five dollars at a time. He will not be able to outspend Hassan without great gobs of out of state money.
State Senator Chuck Morse opposes Bolduc as the insider candidate. Morse worked his up the New Hampshire ladder the old fashioned way. He is the current President of the State Senate. He was an accomplished state legislator and member of the Executive Council too. Morse even was acting governor for two days when Hassan elevated herself to the US Senate in 2017.
Morse, in a normal political time would win today’s primary election. We do not live in normal times. This primary has not been heavily polled, but the most recent UNH Granite State Poll (8/30/22) has Bolduc leading Morse 43% to 22%. Governor Sununu endorsed Morse last week and had recently characterized Bolduc as a not serious candidate who is prone to conspiracy theories. The most recent poll suggests Bolduc is a serious candidate. I endorse the second part of the governor’s statement about being supportive of some gutter ball ideas and theories. Interestingly, the former guy has not endorsed Bolduc. Even more interesting, it has been reported that Trump called Governor Sununu last week. Sununu is a card-carrying member in good standing of the not Trump Republican camp. My guess is that one of the conversation points between them was today’s Senate vote.
All kinds of out of state money has been pouring into this race. The New York Times recently reported that “a total of $33 million has poured into TV and radio ads for tiny New Hampshire’s Senate race since the start of the year”. A Democrat PAC has been airing anti-Morse television spots. A GOP PAC has supported Morse and attacked Bolduc. Another GOP PAC aired ads have attacking Morse. Republican leadership has threatened that a Bolduc primary win will result in national contributions being denied.
So what do I expect? Undeclared votes tomorrow will have a say in the results. How many will vote Morse as a less Trumpy option? How many Democrats will crossover, and will they support Morse or Bolduc? Are there enough angry Undeclared and Republicans ready to promote Bolduc to the general election? My feeling is that Bolduc will win the primary, even without a Trump endorsement. Republican primary voters are not in a good mood. They will ignore the Bolduc odd statements. They do not like outside money and party bosses dictating who to vote for or against.
My prediction: It will be Bolduc or bust, with a November bust for the GOP likely in New Hampshire.