The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Republicans, Democrats ramp up spending to influence N.H. GOP primary

Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) questions Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on Capitol Hill on Sept. 30, 2021. (SHAWN THEW/EPA-EFE)

Democrats and Republicans are pouring millions of dollars for campaign ads into New Hampshire just days before voters there nominate a Republican candidate to challenge Sen. Maggie Hassan, who is considered one of the more vulnerable Democrats in the November general election.

Retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc has a double-digit lead over his nearest rival, Chuck Morse, president of the state senate in New Hampshire, according to recent poll from the University of New Hampshire.

But some Republicans, including Gov. Chris Sununu and former president Donald Trump’s onetime campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, have warned that nominating Bolduc would hurt Republicans in November. Among Bolduc’s controversial actions: raising skepticism about vaccines and signing a letter falsely claiming Trump won the 2020 election.

To stop Bolduc, a Republican political action committee created by a former staffer with the National Republican Senatorial Committee is spending $4.1 million on ads to boost Morse, the New Hampshire Union-Leader reported. Email and telephone messages left for that former staffer, Les Williamson, were not immediately returned on Friday.

But Democrats are also jumping into the Republican primary. The Senate Majority PAC, which is affiliated with Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), announced Friday it is spending $3.2 million on ads critical of Morse.

Democrats face blowback after boosting far-right Michigan candidate

In a statement announcing the ad blitz, the PAC’s spokeswoman Veronica Yoo referred to Morse as the “handpicked candidate” of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

A spokesman for Bolduc’s campaign, Jimmy Thompson, said in a statement, “These are last ditch and losing efforts by the Washington establishment to prop up their own: Senator Hassan and State Senator Morse.”

Meanwhile, a PAC aligned with McConnell, the Senate Leadership Fund, announced Friday it had purchased $23 million in advertising aimed at Hassan that will start airing Sept. 13, the day of the primary.

The gush of money pouring into New Hampshire underscores the importance of the state as each party battles for control of the narrowly divided Senate. Republicans need to gain one seat to seize the majority in the evenly divided Senate.

It is also the latest example of Democrats spending money to boost far-right candidates in Republican primaries in the belief they will be easier to defeat in November.

The spending by the McConnell-affiliated group marks the first time the Senate Leadership Fund said it is investing in New Hampshire. Republicans had tried to recruit Sununu to run for the Senate, but the governor rebuffed their overtures, announcing he would seek reelection to a fourth term.

“I’d rather push myself 120 miles per hour delivering wins for New Hampshire than to slow down, end up on Capitol Hill debating partisan politics without results,” he said in November, suggesting it would take years of “waiting around” in Washington before he’d have much influence.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu to seek a fourth term, not run for Senate

In 2016, Hassan defeated Republican incumbent Kelly Ayotte by less than a percentage point to become the state’s junior senator. Democrat Hillary Clinton narrowly carried the state over Trump that year, as well.

The Democrats’ ads in New Hampshire aiding Bolduc come just a day after President Biden gave a forceful speech in Philadelphia warning about rising anti-democratic forces in the country. “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic,” Biden said, referring to Trump’s campaign slogan, Make America Great Again.

When asked if the Democrats’ ads attacking Morse were helping Bolduc, who is kind of candidate Biden warned about, Yoo, the spokeswoman for the Democratic PAC, referred to her earlier statement. After Biden’s speech, Morse wrote on Twitter, “Count me as one of the 'MAGA Republicans’ Joe Biden has decided to insult last night.”

Maya Harvey, a spokeswoman for Morse’s campaign, said the Democrats’ advertising “confirmed that they know what we know — Chuck Morse is surging in the polls and is the best positioned candidate to defeat her [Hassan] this November.”

And one more voice is teetering on jumping into the race. Trump on Thursday told local radio host John Fredericks that Bolduc has “said some great things” and “I think he’s doing very well, too. I hear he’s up, he’s up quite a bit.”

The former president stopped short of an endorsement.

The 2022 Midterm Elections

Divided government: Republicans narrowly won back control of the House, while Democrats will keep control of the Senate, creating a split Congress.

What the results mean for 2024: A Republican Party red wave seems to be a ripple after Republicans fell short in the Senate and narrowly won control in the House. Donald Trump announced his 2024 presidential campaign on Tuesday, experts helped us game out what would happen if he wins again.

Key issue: Abortion rights advocates scored major victories in the first nationwide election since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Here’s how abortion access fared on the ballot in nine states.