After Latest Primary Casualties, Wounded GOP Establishment Looks to November

The final primaries before November’s midterm elections dealt a knockout blow to the Republican establishment, with New Hampshire voters rejecting House and Senate candidates backed by state and federal GOP leaders in favor of far-right conservatives who used them as foils in their campaigns.

Tuesday’s results ended six months of costly and fractious nominating contests that reflected the influence of Donald Trump and his polarizing movement – even in congressional races like in New Hampshire, where he didn’t make it. of approval. GOP primary voters often chose standard bearers who embraced his false campaign claims, emulated his combative style and promoted his ideas.

On Wednesday, Republican Don Bolduc, an election denier who has raised the possibility of abolishing the FBI, showed up for a showdown with Sen. Maggie Hassan (DN.H.) in the fall on Wednesday, resisting a publicity attack from $5 million from a group with ties to Senate Republican leaders. Republican Robert Burns, who opposes abortion rights, prevailed in a House primary over a candidate backed by Gov. Chris Sununu (right), while ex-Trump aide Karoline Leavitt , defeated House Minority Leader favorite candidate Kevin McCarthy in another.

Now comes the reckoning in New Hampshire — where all three races feature vulnerable Democrats — and beyond for Republicans. Overall, they featured a diverse group of nominees, including women and candidates of color and moderates, all in winnable races, particularly in the House. Winning just five more of those seats, and one in the Senate, would give Republicans control of Congress for the second half of President Biden’s term.

But the struggle to get there has taken a heavy financial and political toll on the party. In New Hampshire, party leaders have wasted millions of dollars and expended political capital trying to defeat winning candidates.

“You sent the biggest signal to the establishment tonight,” Bolduc, a retired brigadier general, said at his Hampton victory party. Midway through his speech, Bolduc held a small shield with arrows sticking out, to symbolize the “arrows” he had fired from a multimillion-dollar GOP ad campaign.

On the track, Bolduc called Sununu a “Chinese Communist sympathizer” and said “Trump won” the 2020 presidential election. Leavitt, a 25-year veteran of Trump’s White House press team who would be the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, called the Biden-Trump race “rigged”. Burns, a former county official appointed to the state’s other House seat, highlighted his own anti-abortion views and beat a moderate mayor who called himself “pro-choice.”

In interviews after the vote, Republicans said all three races remained winnable in November. Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel will join the state party for a candidates’ “unity breakfast” on Thursday, designed to raise money for the ticket and heal wounds from the long primary.

According to the candidates’ pre-primary filings, Hassan entered September with $7.4 million, Rep. Chris Pappas (DN.H.) had $2.3 million, and Rep. Ann Kuster (DN.H.) had $2.9 million. Their opponents entered the month with $83,000, $573,000 and $57,000, respectively.

“Once again Kevin McCarthy’s PAC has spent millions of dollars losing,” said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (DN.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “He is now stuck with two MAGA extremists who would ban abortion nationwide.”

PACs linked to McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) spent nearly $10 million to help failed candidates on Tuesday, signaling what the party thought of these candidates – and what the conservative party thought about their leadership on the ring.

Campaign ads from White Mountain PAC, a pop-up group with a treasurer linked to McConnell, warned that Bolduc had “crazy ideas” and would not be able to unseat Hassan, who is seeking a second term after winning the closest race to the 2016 Senate. A 30-second spot from the Republican Main Street Partnership attacked Leavitt as a “woke” candidate who had “made fun of her parents.”

Both campaigns, tellingly, portrayed insurgent candidates as insufficiently pro-Trump, a nod to voter sentiment in the state. Bolduc and Leavitt responded by disparaging the “swamp” for trying to stop them and promising to stand up to McConnell and McCarthy when they arrived in Washington.

“Any of our people have the ability, with the right credentials, to beat their Democratic opponents, because that’s how bad they are and how bad things are,” the New Hampshire president said. GOP, Stephen Stepanek, in an interview before the polls closed. “The question is, what support are we going to receive at the national level? »

On Wednesday, National Republicans said they remained committed to winning in New Hampshire. After State Senate Chairman Chuck Morse conceded to Bolduc and 2020 nominee Matt Mowers conceded to Leavitt, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who chairs the Republican National Senate Committee (NRSC ), told CNN that the party “was going to spend money” to try to defeat Hassan.

Chris Hartline, the NRSC’s communications director, added that voters would be “ready to vote for a Republican who stands up to Joe Biden and his agenda that hurts Granite Staters”, and that Hassan remains “the strongest incumbent Democrat.” vulnerable” in the country, even after spending millions of dollars on TV ads to rebuild support.

The McConnell-linked Senate Leadership Fund earmarked more than $23 million in television advertising time for the New Hampshire race and announced no changes to that plan after Morse conceded.

Hassan’s first post-primary commercial, which began airing Wednesday, Bound Bolduc to McConnell and warned that a Republican majority “would push for a nationwide ban on abortion.” On primary day, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (RS.C.) had implemented a 15-week abortion ban with limited exceptions; McConnell told reporters that “most of the members of my conference” did not support it.

Democrats said Wednesday that the primaries had widened their path to maintaining a majority, after the Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion in the summer and a wave of legislative victories in Washington improved the party’s standing.

But before Bolduc’s victory, Republicans were already strategizing around Senate candidates who lagged Democrats in fundraising and trailed the party’s other 2022 candidates in the polls — including Herschel Walker in Georgia, Blake Masters in Arizona, Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania and JD Vance in Ohio. Both major parties still spend heavily on these races, and Democrats have pushed back against the idea that right-wing GOP candidates meant guaranteed wins in November.

“None of these races will be easy,” New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley said, referring to the re-election of Hassan, Pappas and Kuster. “Nothing should ever be taken for granted, and our candidates and bases will work hard to win.”

In New Hampshire, Hassan criticized the Biden administration’s handling of the U.S.-Mexico border, but she didn’t face a serious challenge to her left on Tuesday. Speaking to reporters on Saturday, after launching a campaign with Pappas, Hassan said the Biden administration ‘took too long to really start fighting inflation’, and would ‘continue to stand up’. to its president for his management of the border and drug trafficking.

Republican candidates have not had the same space to criticize their party leader. In New Hampshire, Mowers was endorsed by Trump in 2020 and had worked for his 2016 campaign, Leavitt attacked him for not going far enough in questioning Biden’s defeat. In the other House race, Burns pointed out that he endorsed Trump in 2016 when many other Republicans backed down.

“I think there are more swamp creatures – that’s what I call them – so I realized,” said Catherine Latino, a New Hampshire voter who joined Leavitt at a rally. with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) last week. “Trump still resonates.”

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