Ken isn’t going to vote on Tuesday. Working in a hardware store in Northern New Hampshire, Ken points to the 2020 election as one reason why one vote doesn’t much matter:
“It was supposed to be close last time, but look what happened, Biden won in a landslide. How am I going to make any difference?”
Three people I asked who they thought will the U.S. Senate race win on Tuesday furrowed their eyebrows and asked who’s running. Even after I told them, each remained cagey and said they wouldn’t hazard a guess.
For those who are paying attention, it is getting close in New Hampshire. All polls agree that (ret) Gen. Don Bolduc has gained ground in his Republican challenge to Democrat Maggie Hassan, a one-term incumbent. Six years ago, Hassan won the seat she currently holds by a small fraction of a percent when she ousted moderate Republican Kelly Ayotte.
Now New Hampshire is “firmly in play,” POLITICO reported on Friday. Recent polls bear this out. Also on Friday, Emerson pegged Hassan at 50, Bolduc at 46 and four percent undecided. St. Anselm’s and Trafalgar both give Bolduc a one-point lead, and a recent poll conducted with FiveThirtyEight shows independents breaking for Bolduc.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee had given up on Bolduc in mid-October, and pulled money from his race to spend on what it then deemed more competitive ones. But then something happened, and Bolduc started gathering steam. When the NRSC jumped ship, he was more than ten points down.
Last week, the national Democrats upped their final spend for New Hampshire by $600,000 in funds they’d slated for other races. What happened? Did the earth start moving in the Granite State?
Technically, yes. As I traveled the lakes district on Sunday, there was a 2.9 quake, which is almost imperceptible unless you read it happened. In parallel, something has been shaking in peoples’ attitudes.
“It’s like everything’s upside down today,” exclaimed Bertrand, a retired retailer in Gorham. “When I was 17, I was busting my ass for any work I could get, but now you can’t find any young people willing to work.” Bertand liked Ayotte, and regrets that she lost. He hasn’t heard much from Bolduc, but he likes the sound of him.
North Conway hospitality executive Tom is less excited about Bolduc.
“He’s a damn election denier,” Tom told me, adding, “we have two perfectly good senators, I see no reason to change that.” At the same time, Tom gloomily predicts that Bolduc will probably win.”
In their messaging, national Democrats have been painting Bolduc as a far-right, conspiracy nut. Actual New Hampshire citizens can see through that, and when they focus on Bolduc see a highly-decorated Army general who served shoulder to shoulder with his men in some of the world’s toughest corners.
Some see in Bolduc a tribune for their anger about rising prices, surging crime and diminished global strength. His air is that of the reluctant warrior, not the raving wing-nut. He’s new to politics and that might explain some past statements he’d probably prefer not to have said in retrospect. That citizen-servant profile could play very well in a year voters detest Washington even more than usual.
Former South Carolina Governor and Trump ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley is in Nashua tonight stumping a second time for Bolduc, and Tulsi Gabbard – who recently renounced her membership in the Democrat party – has also been joining him in New Hampshire, where she enjoys some popularity.
The first irony in the race which, by some counts Bolduc now leads, is that in branding him “ultra right,” Dems also actually supported his candidacy in the run up to the GOP primary. The second irony in this race – as in others this cycle – is that high turnout is desirable. The cliché with Republicans is the lower the turnout, the better they perform.
Now, in this one-time Republican stronghold, it’s going to take a red wave to push Bolduc over the top. If indeed that’s how the numbers are going to work this time, maybe this weekend’s warm weather no prognosis of rain is a good omen for the former general. He’s certainly no stranger to uphill fights.