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Money flows into New Hampshire ahead of GOP primaries

Democratic committees try to influence choice of GOP challengers

A Democratic super PAC is spending to influence Republican voters in the primary to pick a challenger to Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, who faces a competitive race this November.
A Democratic super PAC is spending to influence Republican voters in the primary to pick a challenger to Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, who faces a competitive race this November. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Millions of dollars in outside spending has flooded into New Hampshire ahead of next week’s primaries to pick Republican challengers to three Democratic incumbents this year. 

New Hampshire is one of the final states to hold primaries, along with Rhode Island and Delaware, on Tuesday. Republicans view the state’s Senate race as a pickup opportunity in their quest to win control of the Senate, while Democrats say each of incumbent Sen. Maggie Hassan’s potential GOP opponents has flaws. 

The outside spending is primarily aimed at helping two of the Republicans seeking the nomination to face Hassan: Chuck Morse, the state Senate president, and Don Bolduc, an Army veteran who ran in 2020 to challenge Sen. Jeanne Shaheen but lost the GOP primary. Former Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith; Bruce Fenton, a bitcoin investor and financial adviser; and businessman Vikram Mansharamani round out the leading candidates who have been on debate stages, among the 11 Republicans on the ballot. 

White Mountain PAC, a newly formed super PAC that reportedly has ties to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, made a $4.6 million ad buy last week supporting Morse. In an ad that went up Wednesday, the group went negative against Bolduc. The ad highlights Bolduc’s criticism of President Donald Trump’s campaign team after Bolduc lost a Republican Senate primary in 2020 and his support for President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan last year. 

“Don Bolduc’s crazy ideas won’t help us defeat Maggie Hassan,” the ad says. 

Fenton and Mansharamani have criticized the attack ads.

Still, the outside spending that has flowed into the state in recent days is set to continue over the next two months, a sign of a competitive race. The Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC with ties to McConnell, announced $23 million in ad reservations beginning Tuesday, the day of the primary, and running through the November election. 

Senate Majority PAC, a super PAC with ties to Senate Democratic leadership, has also spent $3 million to attack Morse in an ad that highlights his campaign ties to lobbyists and labels Morse as “another sleazy politician.” 

While it clearly is an attack on a potential challenger who has attacked Hassan, the ad also could push Republican primary voters toward Bolduc, the candidate the GOP White Mountain PAC is trying to prevent from getting the nomination even though he is not mentioned in the Democratic ad. This is not the first time the Democratic super PAC has meddled in Republican primaries this year, though an effort in Colorado that appeared intended to help a more conservative candidate failed, giving winner Joe O’Dea an opening to say he was the opponent Democrats were afraid to face. 

Hassan’s team says she is prepared to run against whoever wins the Republican primary. Regardless of who she faces, she will start the campaign with a cash advantage. As of Aug. 24, Hassan had $7.3 million on hand, while Morse had $582,000 and Bolduc had $84,000. 

“Senator Hassan has the record and message needed to win in New Hampshire — a fiercely independent state where voters want their leaders to solve problems and get results,” Aaron Jacobs, Hassan’s campaign manager, said in a memo Tuesday. “With Don Bolduc and Chuck Morse embracing extreme agendas as they stagger across the finish line of a deeply divisive Republican primary, Senator Hassan is in a strong position entering the general election.”

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race as Tilt Democratic. 

The Senate race isn’t the only Granite State primary into which outside groups are pouring money. In the race for the nomination to challenge Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas in the 1st District, the GOP race is primarily between Matt Mowers, a State Department official during the Trump administration who lost to Pappas in 2020, and Karoline Leavitt, a former Trump White House staffer. A handful of other candidates could take a percentage of votes that could help determine the winner.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC with ties to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, has spent at least $840,000 supporting Mowers, while Defending Main Street Super PAC Inc. has spent at least $1.3 million opposing Leavitt. 

Leavitt said in a statement that the outside spending to attack her “proves that New Hampshire voters have a clear choice on Tuesday — I am the only homegrown, grassroots candidate in this race, and Matt Mowers is the handpicked puppet of the Establishment.” 

In the 2nd District, Democratic Rep. Ann McLane Kuster is running uncontested. But a competitive Republican primary between Keene Mayor George Hansel and former Hillsborough County Treasurer Robert Burns has drawn some outside spending by a Democratic hybrid PAC, Democrats Serve. Like the spending in the Senate primary, the $113,000 for online advertising is described as opposing Burns, the more conservative candidate, but could have the effect of helping him with base voters. 

Inside Elections rates the 1st District as Tilt Democratic and the 2nd District as Likely Democratic.

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