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UPDATE 1-New Hampshire Republicans choose between far-right, moderate candidates for U.S. Senate

UPDATE 1-New Hampshire Republicans choose between far-right, moderate candidates for U.S. Senate

Reuters · 09/13/2022 20:00
UPDATE 1-New Hampshire Republicans choose between far-right, moderate candidates for U.S. Senate

Updates with polls closing

By Andy Sullivan

- Republicans in New Hampshire cast ballots on Tuesday in a contest between a far-right candidate and a longtime state legislator to face incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan as the midterm primary season comes to a close.

It is the last in a series of contests that have seen Republicans repeatedly select candidates aligned with former President Donald Trump, causing some in the party to worry this hurts their chances of winning control of the U.S. Senate in the Nov. 8 midterm elections.

Taking back either the Senate or the House of Representatives would give Republicans the power to bring Democratic President Joe Biden's legislative agenda to a halt and launch potentially politically damaging probes.

The leading New Hampshire candidate, retired Army Brigadier General Don Bolduc, has echoed Trump's false claims about 2020 election fraud and questioned whether the Federal Bureau of Investigation should be abolished following its August search of Trump's Florida estate, where agents found a cache of classified documents. He has courted Trump, but Trump has endorsed him.

Bolduc faces state Senate President Chuck Morse, a lower-key figure who is backed by White Mountain PAC, a Republican group that has spent at least $4.6 million on his behalf. Several other candidates have failed to gain widespread support.

Neither candidate held a clear lead when voting concluded at 8 p.m. Eastern time (0000 Wednesday GMT).

Morse would stand a better chance of defeating Hassan than Bolduc because he can appeal to independents who account for the majority of voters in the state, said Dartmouth College political science professor Linda Fowler.

"If Bolduc gets the , the independents will go to Hassan," she said. "If he doesn't get the , the independents will have a serious choice."

The state's Republican Governor Chris Sununu endorsed Morse on Thursday, saying he would be the most competitive candidate against Hassan. Sununu has called Bolduc a "conspiracy theorist," while Bolduc has called Sununu a "communist Chinese sympathizer."

Sununu's decision last fall to take on Hassan himself disappointed Republicans, who believed the governor, a member of a well-known New Hampshire political family, would have easily unseated Hassan.

That, along with the of political including former football star Herschel Walker in Georgia and celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, have dimmed Republicans' chances of winning Senate control.

Top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell has put his party's chances of winning that chamber at "50-50" in public remarks, concerns about "candidate quality" without singling out any specific candidates.


INFLATION WOES

However, Republicans are still favored to take a majority in the House of Representatives amid widespread dissatisfaction with Biden's presidency and months of sharp price increases.

Biden's approval rating remains stuck at 39%, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling, and a Labor Department report on Tuesday showed that consumer prices rose unexpectedly in August.

But another Reuters/Ipsos poll found Democratic voters just as enthusiastic as their Republican counterparts about the Nov. 8 election.

In the battle for New Hampshire's Senate seat, analysts say Hassan holds the advantage over whoever wins the Republican . But the Senate Leadership Fund, a group affiliated with McConnell, has said it plans to spend $23 million on attack ads to help the Republican .

New Hampshire is one of seven key battlegrounds along with Georgia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Arizona and Nevada that analysts believe will determine control of the 100-seat Senate.

The chamber is currently divided 50-50, with Democrats holding a majority thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris' tie-breaking vote.

Along with the Senate contest, Republican voters in New Hampshire picked candidates to take on the state's two incumbent House Democrats.

Republicans to pick up only four seats to win control of the 435-seat House, and both of New Hampshire's seats are likely to be competitive in November.

Two former Trump administration officials, Matt Mowers and Karoline Leavitt, are among the Republicans hoping to take on incumbent Democratic Representative Chris Pappas in a district that covers the eastern half of the state.

In the other district, Keene Mayor George Hansel and former Hillsborough County official Bob Burns are among those vying to face Democratic Representative Ann McLane Kuster.

In Rhode Island, an open House seat is raising the possibility that Republicans could gain a foothold in a region where they have struggled to compete. Centrist Republican Allan Fung is unopposed in his primary, while state treasurer Seth Magaziner and former Biden administration official Sarah Morgenthau are among those competing for the Democratic .

Voters also went to the polls in Delaware, though the November election for its single House seat is expected to be competitive.


(Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Scott Malone and Cynthia Osterman)

((andy.sullivan@thomsonreuters.com; +1 202 421 5603;))