2022 midterms

Republicans Shudder as Extremist Don Bolduc Wins Senate Primary

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Don Bolduc smiles during a primary-night campaign gathering in Hampton, New Hampshire, on September 13. Photo: Reba Saldanha/AP/Shutterstock

It’s one of those election results that isn’t surprising but is still a shocking reflection of how Republican voters have embraced wild MAGA politics. On Tuesday, the final day of the 2022 primaries, New Hampshire GOP voters nominated former Army general and generally extremist politician Don Bolduc to battle Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan for a U.S. Senate seat. Establishment Republicans were slow to unite behind an alternative to Bolduc; when they did, New Hampshire State Senate president Chuck Morse didn’t have the mojo to defeat the 2020-election-denying and all-around wacky front-runner.

Morse benefitted from a big infusion of late national Republican ad expenditures and an equally late endorsement from Governor Chris Sununu (who unexpectedly took a pass on the Senate race). Morse did well in New Hampshire’s larger cities and towns, but Bolduc swept the state’s more conservative rural areas along with some right-leaning suburbs. Thanks to his regularly odd positions — such as support for repealing the 17th Amendment in order to let legislatures elect U.S. senators and his attacks on Sununu as a “Chinese communist sympathizer” — Bolduc is thought to be an especially weak challenger to Hassan. That’s why pro-Democratic PACs savaged Morse in some lavishly financed ads.

The dog that didn’t bark in the New Hampshire Republican primary was Donald Trump. It’s unclear why he stayed out of the Granite State’s Senate primary. Perhaps it was because he didn’t want to risk his perfect record in 2022 Senate primaries, or maybe he still resents Bolduc’s attacks on him for endorsing a 2020 rival in that year’s Senate race.

Either way, New Hampshire Republicans have saddled themselves with an exceptionally MAGA-ish Senate candidate in a tough general election, just as the Democrats who invested resources attacking the more electable Morse had calculated. Before writing off Bolduc, though, it’s worth noting that the electorate is so polarized that other wacky Republican candidates, including Pennsylvania gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano and Arizona Senate nominee Blake Masters, are doing as well in some polls as their less extremist counterparts. It may all come down to national trends favoring or disfavoring the GOP. But it’s alarming that it doesn’t seem to matter much whether Republican candidates are just garden-variety Trump-era extremists or exotic creatures from the MAGA fever swamps.

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Republicans Shudder as Extremist Bolduc Wins Senate Primary