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With 12 days to go until the Republican Senate primary in the general election battleground state of New Hampshire, former President Donald Trump says he’s seriously considering endorsing one of the two polling front-runners in the race.
“I’m looking at that race very closely,” Trump said Thursday on conservative radio host John Fredericks’ nationally syndicated radio program.
The race is the final high-profile and competitive GOP Senate nomination contest this election cycle. The winner of the Sept. 13 primary will face off in November against former Democratic governor and first-term Sen. Maggie Hassan — whom Republicans view as very vulnerable due to her lackluster poll numbers — in a midterm election showdown that may determine if the GOP wins back the Senate majority.
“I’m looking at it very strongly,” Trump added. “Literally yesterday I took some phone calls on that one.”
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Fredericks, a member of Trump’s wider political circle who co-chaired the former president’s 2016 and 2020 White House campaigns in Virginia, last week endorsed retired Army Gen. Don Bolduc in the Republican Senate primary. According to the latest public opinion polls in the race (UNH Survey Center this week and Saint Anselm College Survey Center last week), Bolduc holds a double-digit lead over small business owner and longtime state Senate president Chuck Morse.
The other major contenders in the multi-candidate field — cryptocurrency entrepreneur Bruce Fenton; businessman, economist and author Vikram Mansharamani; and former Londonderry, New Hampshire, town manager Kevin Smith — registered in the single digits in both surveys, and a high percentage of respondents were still undecided.
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Trump — who gave a big shout-out to Bolduc a year ago after the retired general during an interview on “Fox and Friends” was highly critical of President Biden’s pullout of U.S. forces from Afghanistan — said in Thursday’s interview that Bolduc has “said some great things, strong guy, tough guy. I think he’s doing very well, too. I hear he’s up, he’s up quite a bit.”
Bolduc, who served 10 tours of duty in the war in Afghanistan, is making his second straight run for the GOP Senate nomination in New Hampshire. His 2020 bid was unsuccessful, in part because Trump endorsed Bolduc’s rival. After keeping Trump at arm’s length in his first Senate campaign, Bolduc has strongly embraced the former president’s unproven claims that the 2020 election was “rigged” and “stolen.” Bolduc was part of a group of retired generals who signed a letter questioning the legitimacy of the election due to what they charged was “a tremendous amount of fraud.”
While Bolduc has given New Hampshire conservatives plenty of red meat, there are concerns from some Republicans in the state and nationally that a primary victory by the retired general, who has struggled with fundraising, will allow Hassan to win re-election.
Earlier this week a newly formed super PAC named the White Mountain PAC, which has loose links to longtime Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s political orbit, launched a TV commercial in New Hampshire boosting Morse, as part of what the national ad tracking firm AdImpact reports is a massive $4 million reservation for airtime ahead of the primary.
While Trump has remained neutral in the primary battle, former Trump White House chief strategist and former media executive Steve Bannon has heavily promoted Bolduc on his radio program. But longtime New Hampshire resident and veteran Trump political adviser Corey Lewandowski, who managed Trump’s 2016 presidential primary campaign, has heavily criticized Bolduc.
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Bolduc’s campaign quickly issued a press release highlighting Trump’s praise. And his team said in a statement that “President Trump’s policies made us energy independent and strong… Just like President Trump did when he was elected in 2016, Don Bolduc will go to DC and drain the dreaded swamp.”
Trump said in the interview that he believed the Senate primary was down to Bolduc or Morse, noting that “basically it sounds like it’s between the two of them.”
Morse, in an interview with Fox News on Thursday, said he’d welcome the endorsement of Trump as well as the potential backing of GOP Gov. Chris Sununu, whose approval rating among Granite State Republicans stands at 80% according to a University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll released on Thursday.
“It would be an honor to have both endorsements,” Morse said. “I certainly think they’ve both done a great job — Gov. Sununu in our state and obviously we’d love to have Trump’s policies back here in this country. So, I’d love to have both their endorsements.”
The UNH poll indicates that among likely GOP primary voters who remain undecided, 41% said a Trump endorsement would make them more likely to back that candidate. But 36% said they’d be less likely to support a candidate endorsed by Trump.
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The former president, more than a year and a half removed from the White House, remains the most popular and powerful politician in the Republican Party, as he continues to play a kingmaker’s role in GOP primaries and repeatedly teases a 2024 presidential bid. While suffering a handful of high profile primary loses, the vast majority of the candidates Trump’s backed have won their contests this cycle.
Sununu, who like Trump has remained neutral in the primary, has criticized Bolduc.
“He’s not a serious candidate, he’s really not, and if he were the GOP nominee, I have no doubt we would have a much harder time,” Sununu said of Bolduc during a recent interview on a statewide morning radio talk program. “He’s kind of a conspiracy theorist-type candidate.”
Bolduc claimed last year that Sununu was a “communist Chinese sympathizer” and that the Sununu family’s business “supports terrorism.” While Bolduc has walked back those attacks on the popular governor, he continues to criticize Sununu’s policies during the coronavirus pandemic as “executive overreach.”
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The GOP Senate primary was basically frozen for a year, as Sununu was heavily recruited by national Republicans hoping to land an A-lister to take on Hassan.
But the governor rocked the political world last November by announcing that he would run for re-election rather than launch a Senate campaign.
The Senate Majority PAC, the top super PAC backing Democratic senators and candidates which is aligned with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, on Friday will start running an ad in New Hampshire that ties Morse to longtime Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell.
The ad is the latest example of meddling in GOP primaries by Democratic groups.
“We won’t sit idly by while Mitch McConnell’s handpicked candidate Chuck Morse is currently on air attacking Senator Hassan—we’re going to hold Morse accountable by giving voters the facts,” Senate Majority PAC spokesperson Veronica Yae-in Yoo told Fox News.
Morse campaign communications director Maya Harvey told Fox News that “Maggie Hassan and her dark money allies just confirm that they know what we know – Chuck Morse is surging in the polls and is the best positioned candidate to defeat her this November.
Source URL: https://www.foxnews.com/politics/trump-says-hes-looking-endorsing-new-hampshires-gop-senate-primary-praises-bolduc