The wide array of Republican candidates for the US Senate vying to take on Democratic incumbent Senator Maggie Hassan in November includes several hopefuls – Don Bolduc, Bruce Fenton and Vikram Mansharamani – who are trying hard to pose as political outsiders.
For those who have never sought or held political office before, the underdog may be a fact. For those who have been ignored — or in Bolduc’s case, shunned by party bosses — embracing their outsider status may be a necessity.
Either way, these candidates are betting voters want something different.
They might be right. Vote indicates that more people than ever in New Hampshire, and Republicans in particular, believe the country is heading in the wrong direction. But these self-proclaimed outsiders also face challenges.
Fenton and Mansharamani lack recognition, while Bolduc failed to channel his strong second-place finish in the 2020 primary into fundraising support. And in a race without a clear frontrunner, or a well-known “insider” candidate to act as a foil, the outward message might not resonate. (Other leading candidates vying for the Republican nomination include New Hampshire Senate President chuck morse and former City Manager of Londonderry Kevin Smith.)
That’s partly because the pool of voters these candidates are vying for — people likely to vote in a Republican primary — is relatively small. Only once in the last 20 years has the turnout for a US Senate primary topped 150,000 voters.
“The voters who show up are the regular routine voters, voters tend to choose candidates who are somewhat blessed by the party,” says Andy Smith, a pollster and political scientist at the University of New Hampshire.
And Smith said outside messaging may not move the needle much this year in New Hampshire, absent a binary choice for GOP primary voters this year, or the dynamics playing out in the Republican primaries in other states, where the race comes down. to a contest between a candidate supported by former President Trump and a candidate not supported by Trump.
“It’s hard for me to see how running as an outsider, in a primary, in a state like New Hampshire, is really going to get so much attention,” Smith says.
But in a crowded field, in what has always been a low turnout election, it might not take much attention to make a difference.
Retired Army Brig. General Don Bolduc of Stratham could be considered the favorite in the race according to available polls. But he still presents himself as an outsider independent of the GOP establishment and unresponsive to corporate interests.
“I am an underdog. I’m not bought and paid,” he recently told Breitbart Radio. “The establishment at all levels is very worried about me because they won’t be able to control me.”
On the one hand, it’s a fairly catch-all speech: I’m not a captive of political leaders, not bought by lobbyists, etc. But there is a history with Bolduc, starting with his first run for the U.S. Senate two years ago.
Voters may recall he lost to Corky Messner, who was backed by much of the party establishment and then-President Donald Trump.
Bolduc felt rejected and loudly shared his displeasure at the outcome, then quickly turned his sights to 2022. Throughout his last campaign, he targeted party leaders, including Gov. Chris Sununu , who he said had promised to support him.
Last year, Bolduc went so far as to claim that Sununu’s decision not to run for the Senate was because he feared Bolduc would beat him. Bolduc also called Sununu a “Chinese communist sympathizer” whose family business “supports terrorism”. These assertions are baseless, of course, and Bolduc has gone back on these comments.
But the bottom line for Bolduc is that running other than as a “stranger” may not be a choice. Although he is probably the most well-known candidate in this race – nearly 60,000 people voted for him two years ago – some of his strongest support comes from people outside the Republican Party mainstream, including including COVID vaccine skeptics and voters who vehemently believe the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump. Bolduc therefore certainly holds the message from abroad.
A new figure on the political scene is Bruce Fenton, a bitcoin investor and financial adviser who is investing a lot of his own money in this race. A self-proclaimed “leave me alone” person, Fenton presents himself as an outsider in every way possible. His politics are definitely informed by the cryptocurrency world, and he often says . cryptocurrency and bitcoin should not be regulated. Fenton is also a member of the Free State Project. He says Ron Paul sparked his desire to enter politics and his decision to run was also driven by his concerns about COVID restrictions. If elected, he promises to vote no on any government expansion and to take all available steps to disrupt the status quo in Washington.
“I can say what, what can I do to really cause trouble there? What can I call for a congressional hearing? What can I do to hold on? What can be done to crush this terrible tyranny? I think I’m the best person for that, really,’ he said at a 24-hour filibuster event he hosted at a Manchester hotel.
Fenton said the filibuster event was meant to demonstrate his appetite for fighting tyranny and the status quo.
The other self-proclaimed underdog in this race is Vikram Mansharamani, a Harvard lecturer and self-proclaimed “global trend watcher” who moved to Lincoln from Massachusetts full-time during the COVID pandemic.
In some ways, Marsharamani is participating in what might be the most familiar type of campaign and outward message — that of someone touting their professional credentials and saying that government should operate more like a business.
Mansharamai has worked in finance and advised companies. He also holds several advanced degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Mansharamani appears to have carved out a place for himself on the business conference circuit, but he is little known in New Hampshire. The same could be said of the precise contours of his policy. When asked at a recent GOP picnic to put his ideology on a spectrum, he paused a bit before simply saying he was “Republican.”
In the first debate of this race, he called the Trump administration’s policies “perfect.” But for the most part, Mansharamani is running on a biographical message: pointing out that he is the son of immigrants, and worrying that America’s place in the world is slipping.
“I’m a businessman,” he said in a campaign ad, “not a politician.”