The New Hampshire primaries concluded with retired Army general Don Bolduc, as the winner of the state’s GOP primary for the U.S. Senate. Bolduc has been labeled a far-right candidate who centered his campaign around his support of former President Donald Trump and denying the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election. He will face off and attempt to unseat incumbent Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan in November. Bolduc was projected to win the Republican primary due to his 21 percent preference lead among voters over Chuck Morse according to a University of New Hampshire Survey Center Granite State Poll released late August. However, Bolduc apparently was not the preferred candidate amongst New Hampshire GOP officials.
Maggie Hassan is among the most vulnerable Senate Democrats up for reelection this year and the hope within the GOP was that Governor Chris Sununu would have made a bid for the U.S. Senate but he decided to run for reelection as the state governor. Chuck Morse, who positioned himself as the career moderate conservative legislature, seemed to have been the next preferred candidate for the primary since he gained the endorsement of not just Governor Sununu but other GOP officials, an anti-abortion group, and the National Rifle Association (NRA). Despite the endorsements for Morse and Republicans spending millions of dollars against Bolduc, Bolduc still prevailed.
The New Hampshire primary highlights a growing divide within the GOP not just in the state but across the country between moderate conservatives and far-right extremists who follow the MAGA movement along with Donald Trump. Bolduc for instance is considered far-right not just for his beliefs surrounding the 2020 election but for his previous statements committing to decertifying election results in 2024, calling the governor a “Chinese communist sympathizer,” that his family’s business “supports terrorism,” and that his policies during the coronavirus pandemic were “executive overreach.”
Leading up to the primary Sununu criticized Bolduc saying that “He’s kind of a conspiracy theorist-type candidate,” as well as “He’s not a serious candidate, he’s really not, and if he were the GOP nominee, I have no doubt we would have a much harder time.” Linda Fowler, a political science professor at Dartmouth, told Reuters: “If Bolduc gets the nomination, the independents will go to Hassan.” Former chairman of the New Hampshire GOP Fergus Cullen stated: “If we nominate Bolduc our chances of winning this seat are greatly diminished.” Regardless, it will be up to voters in November to decide on how they feel about the Trump-aligned candidate.
Donald Trump did not take an active role in the New Hampshire GOP primary although he has previously praised Bolduc. Even if he had given an endorsement, the fear among many GOP officials circles back to the fact that while Trump-endorsed candidates across the country have performed well in their respective primaries they will be viewed as too extreme for the general public. The concern is that since these candidates will have a significantly more difficult time convincing voters across the political spectrum, they most likely will fare worse on the November ballot.