Republican leaders had a credible plan for this year’s elections in New Hampshire, the northeast’s most competitive state. GOP leaders would rally behind electable, mainstream candidates who’d be well positioned to compete against vulnerable Democratic incumbents, while taking steps to derail the more radical candidates running in Republican primaries.
GOP voters in the Granite State apparently did not care for their party leaders’ plan. NBC News reported this morning:
Don Bolduc, a self-styled political outsider, has won New Hampshire’s Republican U.S. Senate nomination, NBC News projects, overcoming a push by the GOP establishment to elevate state Senate President Chuck Morse. Bolduc will face Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, who was renominated easily Tuesday, in what’s expected to be one of the fall’s marquee matchups.
To be sure, the Senate primary wasn’t the only race in which Republican primary voters prioritized ideological purity over electability. In New Hampshire’s 1st congressional district, for example, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise backed Matt Mowers, a former State Department official. Primary voters, however, handed the nomination to Karoline Leavitt.
In New Hampshire’s 2nd congressional district, party leaders rallied behind Keene Mayor George Hansel. Primary voters appear to have nevertheless chosen Robert Burns, a far-right former county official who received some financial support from Democrats who see him as far too right-wing to seriously compete in a general election.
But it was Bolduc’s Senate campaign that’s generated the most national attention. Polling has suggested for months that Hassan, the Democratic incumbent, is vulnerable. If Republicans nominated a serious and sensible contender, national investments in the race would soon follow.
It’s why, when it looked like Bolduc, a retired Army brigadier general, might actually win the GOP nomination, the party scrambled to boost his principal rival.
It didn’t work.
Bolduc is so far to the right that he’s on record condemning Chris Sununu, New Hampshire’s Republican governor, as a “Chinese communist sympathizer.” Sununu has responded by saying Bolduc is not “a serious candidate.”
The governor is not alone in making that assessment. Republican Sen. John Cornyn recently conceded that Bolduc is “not our best nominee” and “it would be a shame to nominate somebody who can’t win in the general election, I’m afraid that would be the case for the leading candidate right now.”
The criticisms are hardly baseless. The Republicans’ new U.S. Senate nominee in New Hampshire has questioned whether the FBI should still exist, does not believe Americans should elect their own senators, and is an enthusiastic election denier who would oppose certifying election results he disapproves of.
Bolduc, of course, is celebrating his primary win — but so is Hassan and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.