Sun. Feb 5th, 2023

Another day, another deluge of outside money into New Hampshire’s Republican Senate primary.

National Democrats on Friday began a $3.1 million television advertising blitz aimed at influencing the opposing party’s contest, one day after national Republicans launched their own $4.5 million spree of ads. By the Sept. 13 primary, outside groups will have spent far more than all of the candidates combined. The Republican nominee will face Senator Maggie Hassan, whom Democrats and Republicans see as vulnerable in purple-hued New Hampshire.

On the surface, both sides’ ads are about Chuck Morse, the second-place Republican candidate who is trailing by double digits in polls.

But their real target — unnamed in their ads — is Don Bolduc, the hard-right front-runner.

Establishment Republicans aligned with Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, are desperate to stop Mr. Bolduc, a retired Army general and 2020 election denier, because they assume that he would be a weak general-election candidate. For the exact same reasons, Washington Democrats aligned with the majority leader, Senator Chuck Schumer, would love to see Mr. Bolduc win the nomination.

On Friday, the Senate Majority PAC, a Democratic group, launched its first ad, attacking Mr. Morse, the State Senate president, as “another sleazy politician” by linking him to lobbyists for a Chinese company and “a mail-order pharmacy that flooded New England with opioids.”

Mr. Morse called the attack “misinformation” and said it was evidence that he was gaining momentum. “Chuck Schumer is spending millions to try and stop me by spreading misinformation to Republican primary voters just days away from the election because I am the only proven candidate who has beaten Hassan before, and I will again,” Mr. Morse said in a statement. (Mr. Morse was referring to a budget dispute in 2015 when Ms. Hassan was governor and he led the State Senate.)

The Democratic ad campaign meddling in the Republican primary came one day after a pro-Morse spot from the newly created White Mountain PAC, which is linked to Mr. McConnell. It praised Mr. Morse as “one tough conservative,” highlighting his opposition to the Biden administration’s immigration policies.

A poll this week by the University of New Hampshire showed Mr. Bolduc as the choice of 43 percent of likely Republican primary voters, with 22 percent supporting Mr. Morse.

One possible wild card is whether former President Donald J. Trump, who has stayed out of the race, will offer an endorsement. Among the 20 percent of Republicans undecided in the poll, four in 10 said a Trump endorsement would make them more likely to support that candidate, but about one-third said a Trump endorsement would make them less likely to do so.

Mr. Trump — who snubbed Mr. Bolduc in a 2020 primary by endorsing a rival — said on Thursday in a radio interview that he was getting calls about the race.

“So I’ve been watching it,” he said. “They want the endorsement. You know the numbers, I’m almost like at 99 percent on endorsements.” He added, speaking of Mr. Bolduc: “He said some great things, strong guy, tough guy. I think he’s doing very well, too. I hear he’s up, he’s up quite a bit.”

(Mr. Trump’s endorsement scorecard, while good, is less than 99 percent; he has mostly lent his imprimatur to candidates who echoed his lie that the 2020 election was stolen, according to a New York Times analysis. He has also chosen noncompetitive races or waited to pick the candidate most likely to win.)

Rick Wiley, a senior adviser to Mr. Bolduc, expressed confidence that he would be the nominee.

“General Bolduc tunes out the noise and focuses on Granite Staters,’’ Mr. Wiley said. “He will be an independent voice in Washington, looking out for New Hampshire.”

Neil Levesque, the executive director of the Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire, said that interference in primaries by national political groups had become normal.

“Bolduc has consistently led in the polls since announcing and has gone unchallenged because he has been underappreciated by the political class because of his fund-raising challenges,” he said. “It’s as if Washington, D.C., came back from summer vacation and realized he was going to win, and that the fate of control of the U.S. Senate rested on a man named Don Bolduc who had $75,000 cash on hand.”



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