Just days after financial reports in the New Hampshire GOP U.S. Senate primary hit the news, supporters of state Sen. Chuck Morse are launching a new fundraising push for a PAC to build on his success and boost his campaign.
Fundraising is one of the few metrics available to measure the momentum of the candidates. It is also a sore spot for Republicans nationwide in their bid to win a majority in the fall, in an election cycle that heavily favors the GOP. With candidates like Dr. Mehmet Oz (Pa.) and J.D. Vance (Ohio) struggling to keep up with their Democratic opponents, national Republicans are particularly focused on the fundraising ability of potential nominees.
The Morse campaign believes that gives their candidate, well known as a prolific fundraiser in Concord, an advantage. He raised more than $550,000 in the most recent quarter and a total of $1.3 million from donors. That puts him solidly in first place in the funding race.
Starting this week, fundraising will begin in earnest for the Granite State Prosperity PAC, co-chaired by Ovide Lamontagne and Steve Duprey, two prominent New Hampshire Republicans. Lamontagne, who won the GOP nomination for governor in 1996 and 2012, is best known as an advocate for his party’s social conservatives. Duprey, a former Republican National Committeeman and longtime ally of Sen. John McCain, is identified with the more moderate wing of the party.
And, Duprey says, there is no substitute for money in the bank.
“In virtually every campaign, the candidate with the broadest financial support wins. In the Republican primary for Senate, that candidate is Chuck Morse,” said Duprey. “What’s more, he’s raised most of it from among Granite Staters. The Granite State Prosperity PAC will begin raising money in earnest this week with the exclusive goal of electing Chuck to the U.S. Senate.”
But is money enough to win a GOP primary in 2022? Or will issues like support for former President Donald Trump or being a political outsider have more impact on voters than cold, hard cash?
Gen. Don Bolduc, for example has the unusual distinction of consistently polling in first place while also raising the least money. In the most recent quarter, the two-time candidate raised just over $84,000 while spending more than $100,000. His total cash on hand is a meager $65,000.
That is just one example of the odd state of funding in this primary.
Businessman and public speaker Vikram Mansharamani is a newcomer to the race, as well as New Hampshire — he just recently moved to the Granite State. So perhaps it is no surprise that most of the money he has raised came from out of state. What may be surprising, however, is that — while he collected $563,000 from contributors last quarter — just six of those donors are Granite Staters.
Then again, compare that to Bruce Fenton, whose FEC filing shows just six donors in total. Fenton loaned his campaign about $1.6 million, giving him the largest cash on hand number in the race.
Meanwhile, former Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith is viewed by some GOP insiders as a strong potential general election challenger to incumbent Democrat Maggie Hassan. The question has been whether he has the fundraising chops to access the money needed to win. So far, the results are less than impressive.
He took in just over $317,000 in the last quarter, but he also spent more than $280,000, and has just $349,000 cash on hand.
Smith does, however, have the support of the Stand for NH PAC, which has spent around $125,000.
All the GOP numbers pale in comparison, however, to incumbent Hassan, who has raised nearly $27 million and has $7 million in the bank. As the New Hampshire Democratic Party noted in a press release, “She has $3.2 million more in her campaign account than the entire GOP field combined.”
Republicans are not as worried about the general election. With the potential that New Hampshire could determine which party controls the Senate, it is all but certain national funding will pour into the state for November’s race. For example, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which has already spent money in New Hampshire, just announced $173 million raised this cycle. And funding organizations linked to GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell have raised more than $100 million this cycle.
The impact of any new PAC fundraising, therefore, will be felt more in the GOP primary less than 60 days from now. Now that Morse has an independent PAC fundraising to get him elected, keeping up with him will be an even more difficult task for Smith, Bolduc, and Mansharamani.
“The Granite State Prosperity PAC is the only Super PAC that is 100 percent committed to electing Chuck Morse to the United States Senate,” said Lamontagne. “Chuck Morse is that rare breed of public servant – a proven, tested conservative reformer with a track record of success by focusing on results rather than recognition.”
Former state House Speaker Bill O’Brien, a veteran of New Hampshire GOP politics, says while money is important, “it does not win races.
“If it was determinative, then we might be experiencing the good fortune in 2022 of considering today whether to elect U.S. Senator Bill Binnie to a third term.”
O’Brien said he believes the relatively small size of the GOP primary electorate, about 150,000 or so voters, makes it hard to earn votes with money alone.
“These primary voters are sophisticated, knowledgeable voters. Many, if not most, will have met some or all the candidates by the time they cast their ballot. They will have watched them in debates. These voters know where the candidates stand on the issues generally, and their top issues specifically.
“Except at the margins in close races, no campaign onslaught of mailings and media ads can convince these voters from voting on what they know. New Hampshire GOP primary voters from voting on what they know as opposed to what they are told in a thirty-second TV spot.”
As for the sources of the money, O’Brien argues primary voters understand it is a small state and outside money or self funding is often required.
“They won’t care where the campaign funds come from, they just want someone who can be the 51st vote for sanity in the U.S. Senate,” O’Brien said.