While it is impossible to predict the future behavior of the former president, it appears Chuck Morse will miss out on a much-anticipated endorsement from Donald Trump.
“Well, that’s that,” one source close to the process shrugged on Tuesday.
It is a major setback for a candidate who, despite outraising him by a factor of 10, still appears to trail frontrunner Don Bolduc.
Last Thursday, New Hampshire GOP insiders thought the deal was all but done. Morse had a meeting with Trump, multiple sources told NHJournal and, while reports are that it was hardly love at first sight, Morse supporters thought it had gone well enough.
“Average,” a New Hampshire GOP source said.
Both people close to the Morse campaign and state GOP insiders believed they saw a plan emerging: Trump and Gov. Chris Sununu would each endorse Morse in the last week of the campaign and, with the help of $5 million in spending from U.S. Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell’s friends, push him past Bolduc. Bolduc, a retired general who has been running for two years, is viewed by Sununu and others in the state party as too extreme to beat incumbent Sen. Maggie Hassan.
A traditional Republican candidate like Morse would help the GOP make the November election a referendum on Hassan and the Democrats currently in power in D.C. But reports that a Trump endorsement was all but guaranteed by the Labor Day weekend turned into “It’s expected on Monday,” before devolving into “Who knows?”
One person who thinks he knows is Steve Sterns, Florida GOP activist and Trump loyalist. Stern is part of The Precinct Strategy, an effort to get what he calls “MAGA Republicans” to show up at local GOP precinct meetings and elect party officials who support Trump and his America First policies. He is a recurring guest on Steve Bannon’s War Room and also John Fredericks’ radio show — the same show where Trump gave Bolduc a glowing review last week.
Trump said Bolduc “has said some great things,” and called him a “strong guy, tough guy,” on Fredericks’ show last Thursday. “I think he’s doing very well, too. I hear he’s up quite a bit. Yesterday I took some phone calls on that one. I’ll be looking at it.”
Stern said he helped get Bolduc on the Bannon and Fredericks shows in the past, and that the general is using the grassroots political strategy Stern’s group promotes. He said he has also used his connections to promote Bolduc inside Trump World. And he felt good — until Friday.
“That’s when Sununu and McConnell and all those idiots got on the phone and called the president. I call them ‘idiots’ because — how can you fight against your own?”
Stern reiterated on Tuesday, both on a local New Hampshire radio show and to NHJournal, that Sununu called Trump to lobby on behalf of the Morse endorsement. That claim was disputed by the governor.
“For the record, the governor did not call President Trump. President Trump called Gov. Sununu and the Senate race came up as part of a larger conversation. The governor encouraged the president to take a look at the Senate race,” said Sununu spokesperson Ben Vihstadt.
Within minutes of that statement hitting Twitter, GOP sources were telling NHJournal any chance of a Trump endorsement was likely gone.
“Looks like Morse is done,” a GOP source said.
Morse’s cause wasn’t helped by polling data presented to Trump showing the state senate president trailing badly behind Bolduc, multiple sources said.
Asked about the Trump endorsement story, the Morse campaign offered a statement from its general consultant Dave Carney.
“As Chuck Morse has said from day one, he would be honored to have the endorsement of President Trump and Gov. Sununu. We are focused on engaging with New Hampshire voters in the next 155 hours until the polls open up. Morse’s message of securing our borders, making America energy independent again, stopping the Biden Hassan spending train, and getting inflation back to normal.
“The better question is why is Maggie Hassan having her patron Chuck Schumer spend almost $6 million trying to stop Morse? Because she knows what we all know — he is the strongest candidate to beat Hassan this fall,” Carney said.
Still, polls show Bolduc with a solid lead — a lead confirmed by both private party polling and internal polls viewed by NHJournal –without spending any money on television.
“Bolduc’s got a base of voters, and Morse needed that Trump endorsement to divide Bolduc’s base. Without it, how does Chuck stop him?” one longtime GOP activist asked.