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In Recent Hampshire, Republicans Weigh One other Hard Right Candidate

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MANCHESTER, N.H. — He has said the state’s popular Republican governor is “a Chinese Communist sympathizer,” called for the repeal of the seventeenth Amendment allowing direct popular election of senators and raised the potential for abolishing the F.B.I.

The person behind these statements is Don Bolduc, a retired Army general who leads the Republican field in what ought to be a competitive race for the Recent Hampshire Senate seat held by Senator Maggie Hassan, a Democrat.

In a single primary after one other this yr, Republican voters have chosen hard-right candidates who party officials had warned would have trouble winning in November, and Mr. Bolduc might be on the right track to be the subsequent. Like him, many embraced former President Donald J. Trump’s election denial. “I signed a letter with 120 other generals and admirals saying that Donald Trump won the election and, rattling it, I stand by” it, Mr. Bolduc said at a recent debate.

The suddenly fraught midterm landscape for Republicans caused Senator Mitch McConnell, the G.O.P. leader, to complain recently that poor “candidate quality” could cost his party a majority within the Senate that had long seemed the likely result.

In the ultimate competitive primary of the yr, scheduled for Sept. 13, Republican officials in Recent Hampshire are echoing Mr. McConnell. They warn that grass-roots voters are poised to elect one other problematic nominee, Mr. Bolduc, and jeopardize a winnable race against a vulnerable Democrat.

This month, Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican moderate broadly popular in his purple state, said on Recent Hampshire talk radio that Mr. Bolduc was a “conspiracy theorist-type candidate.” He added: “If he were the nominee, I actually have little question we’d have a much harder time attempting to win that seat back.”

Mr. Bolduc, who served 10 tours in Afghanistan, held a formidable lead with Republican voters in a poll this month, largely because he has barnstormed constantly for greater than two years, while his rivals joined the race later. The competition was effectively frozen for a yr until November, when Mr. Sununu, a top recruiting goal of national Republicans, declined to run for Senate, deciding as a substitute to hunt a fourth term as governor.

Mr. Bolduc has built a following by offering beef to the conservative base. But Recent Hampshire is a politically divided state where Republicans who win statewide traditionally appeal to independents and conservative Democrats. Its four-member congressional delegation is entirely Democratic; state government is firmly within the hands of Republicans.

“We’re not a red state, we’re not a blue state, we’re a weird state,” said Greg Moore, a Republican operative not involved within the Senate primary. He was skeptical that Mr. Bolduc, after targeting only his party’s base, would have the option to draw a broader coalition in November.

In a debate on Wednesday outside Manchester, Mr. Bolduc denounced the availability in Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act authorizing Medicare to barter lower drug prices, saying, “Anything the federal government’s involved in, it’s not good, it doesn’t work.”

A rival of Mr. Bolduc’s, Kevin Smith, told him at an earlier debate, “You understand, Don, your M.O. appears to be ‘Fire, ready, aim.’”

Mr. Bolduc, 60, is a compact figure who still sports a military haircut close-cropped on the perimeters. Within the minutes before the controversy went live to tell the tale Newsmax, while other candidates studied their notes, he spontaneously led the audience within the Pledge of Allegiance and in singing “God Bless America.”

A poll this month by the Recent Hampshire Institute of Politics showed Mr. Bolduc with support from 32 percent of registered Republican voters, well ahead of his closest rival, Chuck Morse, the State Senate president, who was at 16 percent. Others within the poll, including Mr. Smith, a former Londonderry town manger, were within the low single digits.

The entire candidates have struggled to lift money and draw voters’ attention — 39 percent of Republicans said within the poll they were still undecided.

That offers Mr. Bolduc’s rivals hope, although time is running out: The first is only one week after Labor Day, when most voters traditionally tune in.

Ms. Hassan has long been seen as vulnerable. Just 39 percent of voters within the Institute of Politics survey said she deserved to be re-elected.

At the controversy outside Manchester, the candidates bashed Ms. Hassan, a former governor, linking her to rising gas prices and expected high prices for home heating oil this winter.

Ms. Hassan, in response, defended voting for Democrats’ climate and prescription drug law. “While I’m fighting to get results for Recent Hampshire, my opponents are out on the campaign trail defending Big Oil and Big Pharma and bragging about their records of opposing a lady’s fundamental freedom,” she said in an announcement.

Mr. Trump has made no endorsement in Recent Hampshire, and he may not make one in any respect. He snubbed Mr. Bolduc in a 2020 Senate primary, endorsing a rival. Neither Mr. Bolduc nor Mr. Morse have spoken to Mr. Trump these days concerning the race, based on their campaigns.

Corey Lewandowski, Mr. Trump’s first 2016 campaign manager, who’s a Recent Hampshire resident, has publicly urged his former boss to not back Mr. Bolduc, calling him “not a serious candidate.”

Mr. Bolduc declined to comment for this text. Rick Wiley, a senior adviser to Mr. Bolduc, said the criticisms of him — that he’s unelectable, that independents won’t vote for him — were the identical ones thrown at Mr. Trump in 2016.

“The electorate wants an outsider, that’s resoundingly clear,” Mr. Wiley said. Shrugging off Mr. Sununu’s criticisms, he added: “I expect we’re probably going to be sharing a ballot with the governor. There might be unity on the ticket in November and Republicans up and down the ballot might be successful due to policies Biden and Maggie Hassan have put in place.”

The largest primary threat to Mr. Bolduc, and the popular candidate of much of what stays of the G.O.P. establishment, is Mr. Morse, a low-key, self-made tree nursery owner with a powerful Granite State accent, who appears in his TV ads riding a tractor at dawn at his operation in southern Recent Hampshire.

Despite his distinguished role in state government, a poll in April found that 54 percent of Republican voters didn’t know enough about Mr. Morse to have an opinion. Just 2 percent named him as their selection for the nomination. His ascent to 16 percent in the most recent public poll this month is seen by supporters as an indication of momentum.

Dave Carney, a strategist for Mr. Morse, agreed that Mr. Bolduc was the present race leader. But he said that Mr. Morse’s superior fund-raising, which allowed him to purchase TV ads, was raising his profile, and predicted that he would proceed to achieve on Mr. Bolduc.

“Sixty-one percent of the voters are willing to interchange Hassan,” Mr. Carney said, referring to the share of voters within the Institute of Politics survey who said that it was time to present someone recent a probability to be senator or that they were undecided. “We want to nominate anyone who can do this.” He called Mr. Bolduc a “flawed candidate,” adding, “I don’t think there’s any way in hell he could get conservative Democrats or the overwhelming majority of independents to go his way.”

Mr. Morse had $975,000 in his campaign account as of July, compared with Mr. Bolduc, who had just $65,000. Ms. Hassan’s $7.3 million readily available has allowed her to aggressively spend on TV ads all yr, including one promoting her work for individuals with disabilities that features her son, who was born with cerebral palsy.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, which this month slashed its planned spending in three battleground states — Pennsylvania, Arizona and Wisconsin — has kept a commitment to spend $6.5 million on the Recent Hampshire race after the first, reflecting its belief in Ms. Hassan’s vulnerability.

With the Senate divided 50-50 between the parties and Democrats optimistic about flipping at the least one seat, in Pennsylvania, Republicans have to take down two or more Democratic incumbents to win a majority. Their top targets are in Georgia, Arizona, Nevada and Recent Hampshire.

On the recent debate, the audience was mostly committed supporters of every of the candidates, with few appearing undecided. Bolduc fans dismissed out of hand Mr. Sununu’s view that their candidate would have a tough time in November.

“Sununu is a globalist clown and shouldn’t be a Republican,” said Kelley Potenza, a candidate for the state House of Representatives who’s from Rochester. “He’s afraid because Don Bolduc is the one candidate that’s not going to be controlled.”

Within the audience before the lights went down, Bill Bowen, a recent transplant from California and a Morse supporter, said Mr. Bolduc had reached his ceiling within the polls. He said supporters of Mr. Bolduc who ignored doubts about his electability in November were misguided.

“That’s all that matters,” he said, adding, “That is the 51st vote,” referring to a possible Republican majority within the Senate.

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