Sept. 4 – An unusually quiet primary campaign with little engagement between candidates leaves political analysts and candidates unsure who voters will turn to in just over a week.
An unprecedented $9 million in outside group spending over the past 10 days has amplified this unpredictability.
Chris Galdieri, associate professor of politics at Saint Anselm College, said this late flood of establishment money from both parties came as Republican fortunes crumbled in targeted U.S. Senate races in Georgia, Pennsylvania. and in Ohio.
The importance of winning New Hampshire has grown for Republicans who want to overthrow the Senate, Galdieri said,
Retired Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc of Stratham has emerged as the frontrunner in the race to oppose incumbent Sen. Maggie Hassan, DN.H., despite a poorly funded campaign.
“It reminds me of Trump in 2015, when Republican leaders said there was no way this was going to happen,” Galdieri said. “They realized way too late that Trump could do it. Are we seeing that movie again?”
The spending of these out-of-state groups criss-crosses parties and races.
The White Mountain PAC is spending $4 million to promote Senate Speaker Chuck Morse in the U.S. Senate primary and block Bolduc. Their ads will include personal attacks on Bolduc, according to officials close to the super PAC.
Meanwhile, the PAC controlled by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., is spending $3 million on attack advertising against Morse.
That’s because top Democrats on Capitol Hill want Bolduc to win on Sept. 13, believing it will be easier for Hassan to beat him in the fall.
“Mitch McConnell’s Washington establishment does everything for Chuck Morse, and it’s no surprise that Chuck Morse has taken more lobbyist money than any other New Hampshire state senator and lobbyist runs even his campaign,” the ad reads.
“A lobbyist worked for a Chinese company owned by a Communist Party official, and Morse hired another who lobbied for a mail-order pharmacy that flooded New England with opioids. Chuck Morse: Another sleazy politician.”
Morse said Hassan knew he would beat her.
“Chuck Schumer is spending millions trying to stop me spreading false information to Republican primary voters just days away from the election because I’m the only proven candidate to beat Hassan before and I will do it again,” he said. Morse said in a statement.
Smith: a “third way”
Former City of Londonderry manager Kevin Smith, whose Senate campaign has trailed in some polls, said most voters could ignore this flood of TV ads and start looking for a third option – like him.
“This may be the saddest development we’ve ever seen in New Hampshire,” Smith said during a quickly called Zoom press conference.
“Washington Swamp and its corruption are now trying to buy this race.”
Lincoln entrepreneur Vikram Mansharamani launched a new ad on Friday, referring to “career politicians bankrupting our country and brainwashing our children.”
“I’m a businessman, not a politician, and I’m ready to fix this mess,” he concludes.
Bitcoin millionaire Bruce Fenton from Durham says he has dominated the race on social media which could be decisive in 2022.
“I don’t know how effective that will be in getting the vote – but I go to the same little in-person meetings that Chuck and Don go to, and I feel like social media has to be effective with some voters,” said Fenton.
Dante Scala, a politics professor at the University of New Hampshire, said the TV ad war is raising the stakes for TV debates for the four major federal and state races, which begin airing on WMUR Tuesday night at 8 p.m. with Republican candidates for the 1st Congressional District.
“When two leading candidates turn negative against each other, it sets the stage for positive alternatives to emerge,” Scala said.
The Senate race shows that hard work on the campaign trail can still make a difference, he said.
“It’s funny how political elites here like to talk about grassroots politics in New Hampshire, and then a guy like Bolduc actually does it, and he becomes public enemy number one,” Scala said.
Bolduc has been running for three years and the campaign is approaching 50 town hall meetings – something no one else has come close to matching.
Little name recognition
A few months ago, when Saint Anselme conducted a poll that allowed text responses, Bolduc’s campaign machine sounded an alert and a few hundred supporters responded by texting for their candidate.
The strength of the base, however, is relative.
Americans for Prosperity state director Greg Moore went door-to-door for candidates in Candia, Raymond and Derry last week.
“I’ve had more people pull me aside and say, ‘Who are these Senate candidates? I don’t know of any,'” Moore said.
“Several said, ‘Hey, you’re the first on my doorstep this year and now I’ve had dozens. The sad reality is that none of them have what you would call a real ground game.”
In this election season, campaigns have sometimes failed to do even the simplest things.
Citizens Count and the labor leader distributed a questionnaire on key issues to candidates for Congress and the US Senate, but only one, Republican Russell Prescott in the 1st Congressional District race, responded.
‘Ugly’ in the 1st CD
Supporters of the two top candidates in the 1st GOP congressional district primary race, 2020 nominee Matt Mowers of Gilford and former Trump press secretary Karoline Leavitt of Hampton, are not playing well.
Defending Main Street, a moderate Republican super PAC supporting Mowers, posted an ad with a video clip of Leavitt saying, “Listen, ho bag” into a camera phone.
The commercial’s narrator says of Leavitt, 25, “She wants to bring the new vision of her generation to Congress. You know, making fun of her parents, racking up massive credit card debt. Woke, immature and irresponsible Karoline.”
Leavitt was already ready with her own attack ad, which accuses Mowers of getting close to Dr. Anthony Fauci, who she says “sabotaged President Trump.”
“Corrupt Matt Mowers, just another swamp doormat,” Leavitt’s ad concludes.
New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley said Mowers must have been in a panic, as he easily won the nomination two years ago before losing to incumbent Chris Pappas.
“Mowers has already loaned his campaign $100,000 to stay afloat, while constantly being overtaken by Karoline Leavitt and spent on TV by Leavitt and Gail Huff Brown,” Buckley said.
Leavitt, a 2019 Saint Anselmo graduate, was one of Galdieri’s students.
“I remember students asking, ‘Hey, what would be the impact during a campaign of something stupid I said or did on TikTok or Instagram?'” Galdieri said.
“I guess this race will answer that question.”