Analysts at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report say the results of the New Hampshire Republican primary were good news for Democrats. But they still see Rep. Chris Pappas as potentially vulnerable in November.
U.S. Senate candidate Don Bolduc, First District nominee Karoline Leavitt and Second District Republican Bob Burns all ran on solidly pro-Trump platforms, including unfounded claims the 2020 election was stolen.
“For Democrats, who are eager to make 2022 a referendum on the polarizing former president, GOP voters have helped make their job a bit easier,” editor Amy Walter wrote. “If there were any doubt as to where the base of the GOP resides, the results of the New Hampshire primary made it very clear that it is with Trump.”
Tuesday’s results certainly raised questions about whether the party is with Gov. Chris Sununu. While he handily beat back three far-right challengers in the GOP primary, his endorsed candidates — Sen. Chuck Morse for U.S. Senate and Keene Mayor George Hansel in the Second Congressional District — both lost. Sununu had better luck in the legislative races where about half of the Republican incumbents targeted by a pro-Sununu PAC were defeated.
Sununu supporters note both Hansel and Morse outperformed expectations and came within a few points of winning, but the impact is the same: An all-MAGA federal ticket in a state where former President Donald Trump’s approval rating has long been underwater with independent voters.
“I think we made it a lot harder last night for Republicans to win,” GOP strategist Brad Card told Jack Heath on the Pulse of New Hampshire Wednesday morning.
One potential exception, even some Democrats say, could be Leavitt’s challenge to incumbent Rep. Chris Pappas (D). The political newcomer has impressed many one-time naysayers who thought her age and lack of life experience would be a stumbling block. Instead, Leavitt said Wednesday, she won the race through a mix of successful fundraising and old-fashioned political shoe leather.
“It’s pretty simple: We pounded the pavement. We knocked on doors. We spoke to voters. We showed up,” Leavitt said, adding later, “Our home-grown grassroots, America First campaign prevailed.”
According to the Cook Political Report, Leavitt has vulnerabilities but has shown strength, too.
“It won’t be hard for Pappas to portray Leavitt as an inexperienced Trump acolyte and ‘Big Lie’ believer. Even so, Leavitt has brought in $1.5 million so far and won praise from opposing consultants for her media savvy. She’s also one of a few female GOP challengers running against a male Democratic incumbent, potentially allowing her to blunt Pappas’s attacks that the GOP is hostile to women.”
As a result, while Cook rates both the U.S. Senate race and NH-02 contest as “leans Democrat” after Tuesday night’s result, it is leaving the Pappas race in the Toss Up column.