As the midterm season begins to get underway, top GOP prospects in the swing state of New Hampshire are fighting to win the party's nomination to challenge Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), whose seat is generally considered one of the most vulnerable to GOP incursion.
In 2016, Hassan took her seat by the narrowest of margins in the tightest Senate race of the year.
Despite far out-funding Republican Kelly Ayotte, who raised millions less than Hassan, Hassan's final victory hinged on just 1,100 votes, or 0.16 percent. Such narrow margins had not been seen in the battleground state since a heavily-contested 1974 Senate race.
Now, Republicans are hoping for another shot at taking the seat in an environment that they say is far more conducive to GOP victory than it was in 2016.
Morse Presents As Experienced, Consensus-BuildingChuck Morse, who appears by some measures to be the frontrunner in the GOP primary race, has endeavored to emphasize his long experience in politics as a consensus-builder who can unite conservatives in the state.
In a phone interview David Carney, who serves as the general consultant for Morse, agreed that the race is a prime opportunity for the GOP to make advances in the Senate this year.
“It’s one of the top prospects for our side to pick up a seat, no question,” Carney said.
Bolstering GOP prospects—and painting a grim picture for Hassan’s prospects—is the polling performance of President Joe Biden in the state, Carney noted.
“President Biden’s job approval is underwater by a net 9 points and 51% of voters disapprove of the job that he is doing,” Morse’s campaign said in a press release, citing a poll conducted by the Phillips Academy.
Carney touted Morse's record in his many years in state politics, portraying the candidate as a consensus-builder who could unite disparate wings among New Hampshire conservatives.
"Chuck's a lifelong NH resident ... he's very well known, he's been very active in his community and he's served in the State Senate for years now, he's been the Senate president for 8 years now—the longest serving Senate president in NH history," Carney said.
Morse "has been the leader on some of the most important conservative victories we've had. [These include] not just the budget, which has grown its savings—when Maggie Hassan was governor, we had $8 million in our rainy day fund, to now we have over $280 million in our rainy day fund."
"Chuck also passed constitutional carry last session and educational savings accounts for school choice and put in the first pro-life legislation in 50 years, which limits late-term abortion and [bans] partial-birth abortion in NH," he added.
Aside from his track record, Carney noted that Morse has also shown far better fundraising potential than his lesser-known adversaries.
"He just demonstrated his support across the state, he raised $750,000—almost twice as much money as our other announced opponents have made combined, so we feel really good."
Still, Carney said, "We're not taking anything for granted."
Despite Hassan's campaign spending $10 million last quarter, Carney said, some polls have shown Morse trailing by only a few points, even though he has raised far less revenue, with more recent polls—including a survey by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center—even showing Morse to be ahead of Hassan.
"I mean, she's gonna have an unlimited amount of money, I totally agree," Carney admitted. "But that money isn't gonna do her any good because people know what her policies are doing to their pocketbook, what they're doing to their quality of life, and what is happening across the world."
"She only won by 1,100 votes in 2016," he added. "It isn't like she's some juggernaut."
"She is vulnerable," he ruled.
Carney suggested that Hassan also knows she's in trouble in this environment, and said that she has been trying to rebrand as "MAGA Maggie" to pick votes back up.
The change has been most pronounced in Hassan's shift in attitude toward border security, Carney said.
“Maggie Hassan has voted against every border security bill since she’s been in office,” Carney said. “And yet, she was on the border this week with a video about how we need to have a strong border and put the wall up."
This track record on border security, Carney said, had hurt New Hampshire residents by allowing for an influx of highly-dangerous fentanyl into the state.
The video in question was posted by Hassan to Facebook and other social media platforms on April 11 after she visited the border.
“I just spent two days at our southern border, and it’s clear we need to make more investments in personnel, technology, and physical infrastructure to secure our border,” Hassan said in the video’s caption.
“It is very clear that we need a lot more personnel, it is very clear that we need a lot more technology, so we can really understand what’s happening at the border,” she said in the video.
“I mean, [Hassan] is flipping so much that she’s giving people a headache trying to track where she is on policies,” Carney said. “She is worse than a windmill. She’s just going with the wind.”
“She’s trying to become MAGA Maggie,” he joked. “It’s crazy. It’s unbelievable.”
Carney also discussed Morse's attitude toward President Donald Trump, who lost the state in 2016 and 2020.
"Chuck has said this many times, we'd welcome President [Trump's] endorsement," he said. "Chuck's main points are controlling the border, going back to what President Trump was doing, being energy independent, as we were when President Trump was in office, and getting our economy moving again like it was before Biden."
Thus, Carney said, "The three basic pillars of our campaign are all in support of President Trump. We are not trying to walk a thin line—regardless of what the president does, and we are certainly not speaking for him in any way, we plan to campaign on the successful policy ideas that President Trump implemented during his four years in office."
"President Trump's record in office is something to be celebrated, not to be shunned," he added.
Ultimately, Carney said, victory in the state will come down to New Hampshire's broad swath of independent voters.
"For years, both Republicans and Democrats in NH have won because of independent voters, who make up more than a third of all voters in the state," Carney said. "Who determines the winner is independents."
Hassan and Biden have "driven independents away," Carney said, citing a recent poll of the state that showed Biden's approval rating nine points underwater in the state. This marks a 15 percent drop in Biden's approval ratings in as many months, Carney emphasized.
Concluding his remarks, Carney said the he's optimistic that Republicans will take the seat this year.
Bolduc Campaign Emphasizes Importance of a Political OutsiderDon Bolduc, another prime contender for the GOP nomination, has portrayed himself as a political outsider, in contrast to Morse. In this cycle, Bolduc suggested, such a political outsider is exactly what Granite State residents want and need.
"People are tired of career politicians that have been elected to office on promises that never came to reality," Bolduc said in an email to The Epoch Times. "The electorate is looking for an outsider that is willing to work hard, listen to their constituents, and report back. That's what we are missing with Senator Hassan and why an outsider is so popular among Granite Staters."
The Bolduc campaign also emphasized that, like Morse, it has built up momentum and a great deal of grassroots support, even though it has lagged behind Morse in funding.
"Our campaign is fueled by a fantastic bottom up grassroots campaign that empowers people to be a part of the process and tell their friends," Bolduc said. "I have county chairs, city chairs, coalitions, and small teams everywhere putting up signs and getting the word out. That's how you win against a top-down establishment candidate like Senator Hassan. You beat her in the communities and outwork her every day."
Bolduc's campaign agreed that this cycle presents a great opportunity to unseat Hassan, and brushed aside concerns about another razor-thin GOP loss.
"The 2022 landscape is much different than in 2016," the campaign wrote. "Granite Staters are paying the price for Joe Biden's failures every day. Senator Hassan supports those failures 100%."
Like Morse, Bolduc said that his campaign would focus on dissatisfaction with the direction of the country under the Biden administration.
"When I go out and campaign in all 10 counties of New Hampshire, I hear the Biden Administration is really hitting the Granite State hard," Bolduc said. "Inflation, high fuel prices, food prices, and home heating costs really rose throughout the winter. What we are seeing from Senator Hassan is full support of all of these policies coming out of the White House. She votes with President Biden's agenda 100% of the time. She is there for him on every turn and now we are in the situation we are in. That's what really resonates with voters and why this seat will flip in 2022."
Specifically, Bolduc said, Hassan "has failed to oppose the policies that have created inflation, energy dependence, insecure border, increase in the opioid and mental crisis, and was completely absent during COVID."
Discussing the top three issues of his campaign, Bolduc said that he would focus on economics, restoring U.S. prestige on the world stage, and securing the southern border.
"One of the first things I'd like to do is give Granite Staters some relief in their wallets," Bolduc said. "Senator Hassan's support of the radical left's energy policies have really put a lot of stress on us. I'd get us back on track with energy production and work to bring us to Energy Abundance. I really feel as though it is time to end the war on conventional fuels."
He continued: "After the failed Afghanistan withdrawal, the United States hasn't been projecting strength on the international stage. Our credibility has taken a hit and we are not trusted. The administration's appeasement policy does not work. ... That'll change when I get there. I'll push to reduce our reliance on China and balance our national security to counter the threat of the Chinese Communist Party. "
Finally, Bolduc said, "I will tackle the Southern border. As a young special forces officer, I was assigned to one of our units on the Southern border. I would work with Customs and Border Patrol on the ground, stopping drug and human trafficking coming to the United States. It's time to finish the wall, deploy more law enforcement resources, and focus on utilizing more technology to deter and capture traffickers coming across the border."
In New Hampshire, the primary takes place late in the election cycle. This year, the primary will be held Sept. 13, leaving the eventual GOP nominee with just weeks to make their case against Hassan to New Hampshire voters.
If Hassan loses the seat, it will be a tough blow to Democrats. Currently, the Senate is split evenly between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, though Democrats have a slight edge with the support of Vice President Kamala Harris' tie-breaking vote.
In a phone call with the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), a top GOP electioneering firm, a representative of the organization said that it considers five Democrat-held seats are vulnerable to incursion by Republicans. By contrast, only a few GOP seats are at risk.
If Democrats hope to hold onto their thin majority, they'll have to prevent Republicans from picking up a net gain of even one seat, and Hassan's seat is considered especially likely to cause an upset.