Retired Army Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc held off a strong field of Republican Senate GOP primary candidates Tuesday night to win the New Hampshire nomination in a bid to flip the seat of Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., Decision Desk HQ projects.
Bolduc, a staunch conservative, held off the more moderate state Sen. President Chuck Morse and will now bid for the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, who did not make a choice in a field of candidates bidding for his support.
Republicans see Hassan as beatable in the general election, now just eight weeks away.
New Hampshire's Senate seat could prove pivotal for whichever party controls the chamber after November. President Joe Biden carried the state by more than 7 percentage points and Bolduc has campaigned on a platform that aligns with Trump's Make America Great Again and America First platform.
Hassan clinched her party's nomination against only token opposition while Gov. Chris Sununu won the Republican party's nomination for another term. He is heavily favored against Democrat Tom Sherman, who was unopposed for his party's governor's nomination.
Republican primary voters have similarly chosen conservative candidates this year in moderate or Democrat-leaning states including Massachusetts and Maryland.
Neil Levesque, director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, said Bolduc is a type of candidate who would have struggled to succeed in GOP politics before Trump's rise. He has never held elected office and had just $75,000 in cash on hand last week. Bolduc has nonetheless been able to make inroads by positioning himself as an ally of Trump and seeking election integrity.
"That is because the theme of his campaign and messaging is very similar to former President Trump," Levesque said. "If it mirrors the former president, it's been effective."
Known for kicking off the primary season during presidential campaigns, New Hampshire is instead concluding the nominating process for this year's midterms.
But New Hampshire's Senate race is perhaps most revealing about the direction of the GOP. Morse was endorsed by Sununu, who called him "the candidate to beat Sen. Hassan this November and the candidate Sen. Hassan is most afraid to face."
Bolduc was not formally endorsed by Trump, who propelled many primary candidates to victory in key races throughout the summer, but the former president has called Bolduc a "strong guy."
Some Democrat groups sponsored primary ads promoting Bolduc, predicting he would make an easier November opponent for Hassan. That was consistent with Democratic-aligned organizations backing pro-Trump candidates in key races around the country — a strategy some have criticized, arguing it could backfire if those candidates go on to win their general elections.
Republicans in New Hampshire and around the country scoff at the notion that being a Trump loyalist — or not — could be a deciding general election factor, noting that the still unpopular Biden will be a drag on his party regardless.
The New Hampshire Republican Party has tweeted Hassan "votes with Joe Biden 96.4% of the time."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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