(The Center Square) – Five Republicans are competing in New Hampshire's closely watched primary on Tuesday for a shot to challenge incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan in November.
The marquee race features retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc, a far-right conservative who has echoed former Republican President Donald Trump's claims that the 2020 election was stolen, against New Hampshire Senate President Chuck Morse, a moderate who is running with the backing of Republican Gov. Chris Sununu.
Three other GOP candidates – Bruce Fenton, Kevin Smith and Vikram Mansharamani – are vying for the party's nomination to challenge Hassan, who is unopposed on Tuesday's ballot.
A University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll conducted late last month showed Bolduc leading Morse 43% to 22%, with the other GOP candidates lingering in the single digits.
Andy Smith, director of UNH's Survey Center, said many New Hampshire voters remain undecided ahead of Tuesday's crowded primary and some have only just started paying attention to the contested U.S. Senate race.
He said Sununu's decision last week to endorse Morse's candidacy could help close the gap with Bolduc, but it remains unclear if it will tip the balance of the race in his favor.
"Bolduc has been winning in the polls but he's been campaigning for the Senate since 2019, so he obviously has higher name recognition than the other candidates," Smith said. "By and large, all of the candidates all have similar policy positions, so it's really more about their personalities and who can win in November that the partisans seem to be interested in."
To be sure, the Senate race has drawn national attention as much for who won't be on Tuesday's packed ballot. Sununu was being urged by national Republican groups to throw his hat into the race as part of a strategy to reclaim the U.S. Senate in the midterm elections, but instead he opted to run for a fourth-term as New Hampshire's governor.
Political observers say Sununu's decision not to jump into the race could cost Republicans efforts to take over the U.S. Senate in November's elections. Republicans and Democrats each hold 50 seats in the Senate ahead of November, with Democratic Vice President Harris serving as a tie-breaking vote.
The nonpartisan Cook Political Report has rated the seat as "lean Democrat" in the upcoming general election.
In the money race, Morse has raised more than Bolduc ahead of the primary, according to Federal Election Commission filings. He has drummed up more than $1.5 million while Bolduc has raised about $579,000 to date. By comparison, Hassan has raised about $24 million in the 2022 election cycle, according to her FEC filings.
National Republican and Democratic groups have already poured tens of millions of dollars into the general election race, with control of Congress in the balance, and more spending is expected ahead of the general election.
The Senate Leadership Fund, which is aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, has reserved $23 million in TV ad spending ahead of the general election.
Besides nominating a GOP candidate to challenge Hassan, New Hampshire voters are also deciding two Republican primaries for U.S. House races in Tuesday's primary.
In New Hampshire's 1st District four Republican candidates – Gail Huff Brown, Matt Mowers, Russell Prescott, Tim Baxter and Karoline Leavitt – are competing on Tuesday for the party's nomination to challenge incumbent Rep. Chris Pappas, who is seeking another term.
A University of New Hampshire poll found Mowers, a former State Department official who challenged Pappas in 2020, leading the pack among likely GOP primary voters with 26% and former White House assistant press secretary Leavitt with support from 24% of likely voters.
In the 2nd Congressional District, a crowded ballot of seven candidates are competing on Tuesday for a chance to challenge incumbent Democratic Rep. Ann Kuster, who is unopposed.
The UNH poll found Bob Burns, a former deputy state director for Newt Gingrich’s 2012 presidential campaign, leading the pack of contenders with 32% among likely Republican primary voters. He was followed closely by Keene Mayor George Hansel, with 18% of likely voters.
Other GOP candidates in the race are Scott Black, Michael Callis, Jay Mercer, Dean Poirier and Lily Tang.
The nonpartisan Cook Political Report has rated both U.S. House races a "toss up" in the November elections.