GOP gubernatorial hopeful Chuck Morse is betting his record as a state lawmaker will put him into the corner office in Concord.

He’s also betting that his primary opponent’s voting record while representing New Hampshire in the United States Senate will keep Kelly Ayotte staying put where she is.

The conventional wisdom is that Ayotte, the well-funded frontrunner, is a prohibitive favorite for the GOP gubernatorial nomination. But at a Morse campaign event in Atkinson Thursday night, he and his supporters said they see a path to victory.

“There’s an old saying — you are what your record says you are,” Morse told some 400 supporters during a fundraiser at the Atkinson Country Club. “This race will come down to who the Republicans trust to be the conservative that gets results, and I think the choice is pretty clear.

“We can’t trust someone who voted with the Democrats more than 260 times in the U.S. Senate,” Morse added.

Morse, the former state Senate president, never mentioned Ayotte by name. The most recent poll, conducted in mid-January by the UMass-Lowell Center for Public Opinion, gave Ayotte a 32-point lead. The Democratic Governors Association has lodged a daily series of attacks against Ayotte while largely ignoring Morse.

The only time Ayotte was referenced by name occurred during remarks given by one of the sponsors, Glenn Gidley of Salem Manufactured Homes, who called her “Corporate Kelly.”

On hand at the fundraiser were several GOP state senators who are backing Morse’s campaign, including current Senate President Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro). Bradley attended the event just hours after announcing he won’t seek reelection.

An enthusiastic fan of his former Senate colleague, Bradley called Rockingham County “Morse Country.”

“There’s a theme in this race — and I have to say it’s a good theme — that New Hampshire should not become Massachusetts,” Bradley said, a subtle reference to the Ayotte campaign’s constant focus on anti-Massachusetts messaging.

He then pivoted to talking about Morse and the work he put in as a state lawmaker – and who has not.

“From getting up at 4 a.m. to run his business and then get to the State House by 7 a.m. for $100 a year is that guy right there, Chuck Morse,” Bradley said. He then recounted New Hampshire’s high ratings on quality of life, safety, employment, and more. “So don’t give me some talking point about keeping New Hampshire from becoming Massachusetts — it’s about a lot of gosh-darn hard work.”

“Chuck Morse has delivered and that’s the difference in this race.”

At a Cheshire County GOP fundraising event last Thursday in Keene, Morse told NHJournal he’s been committed to “telling the truth” about both his record as a state lawmaker and Ayotte’s record in the U.S. Senate. A week earlier state GOP leaders released a statement calling for “decorum and respect” from all Republican primary candidates, a move party insiders say was in response to an escalating series of attacks made against Ayotte by Morse.

Morse has several current state senators in his corner as supporters, including Sen. Sharon Carson (R-Londonderry).

Asked about the state of both Ayotte’s and Morse’s campaigns, Carson said there’s no contest regarding who is working harder.

“Chuck is working hard for every single vote,” she said. “He will do anything, and he is everywhere, talking to Republicans — anybody who wants to talk — he’s doing the right thing, he’s running his campaign the right way.”

Morse’s record in New Hampshire state government continued to be the theme Thursday night. Asked about her support for Morse, Carson told NHJournal the correct “tenor was set under Chuck’s leadership” when he was Senate president between 2013 and 2018.

Ayotte has a long list of endorsements of her own, including former governors Craig Benson and Judd Gregg, and current House Majority Leader Jason Osborne. She’s also shown a significant fundraising advantage as well.

Speaking to his supporters, Morse repeated some of the critiques of Ayotte he’s been making in recent media appearances, hitting her on immigration and her troubled relationship with former President Donald Trump.

“If you want a governor who has always opposed amnesty for illegal immigrants, I will be that governor,” Morse said at one point during his remarks. “Now is not the time to elect someone who talks a good game. I’ll put my conservative results up against anyone’s because I didn’t just cast votes, I got results.”

Morse also took another subtle shot at Ayotte’s refusal leading up to the 2016 presidential election to endorse GOP nominee Donald Trump.

“We can’t trust someone who is afraid to put Joe Biden back in his basement and Donald Trump back in the White House,” he said.

Team Ayotte pushed back.

“Chuck Morse is losing and lying. Unfortunately for Chuck, he can’t rewrite history — he killed the sanctuary city ban, didn’t use E-Verify at his own company and is the same guy who was the state chair for Jeb Bush for President. Give me a break,” said Ayotte campaign spokesman John Corbett. “Kelly Ayotte is the only candidate in this race with a track record of keeping New Hampshire safe.”

House Majority Floor Leader Joe Sweeney (R-Salem) told NHJournal following Thursday night’s event that Morse has the “leadership abilities to really shine as our next governor.”

When asked about the Democrats’ noticeably focusing on Ayotte more than Morse, Sweeney said, “There are 400 people in this room tonight who don’t think it’s a done deal.”

“These are heavy turnout areas for Republican primary voters. It’s far from a done deal. We’re just getting started.”