MAGA-aligned candidates swept the Republican congressional primaries in New Hampshire last night, defeating better-financed candidates backed by Gov. Chris Sununu and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
Why it matters: The GOP’s path to win back a Senate majority has narrowed, with Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) better positioned to win re-election.
The big picture: All three of the GOP congressional candidates seen as more electable went down to defeat.
Details: The biggest defeat for the GOP establishment came in the Senate primary, where state Senate President Chuck Morse conceded to right-wing retired Gen. Don Bolduc — who faced over $4.6 million in super PAC spending on Morse’s behalf from a Mitch McConnell-aligned group.
- Bolduc didn’t spend any money on TV ads, instead relying on a grassroots army of fed-up conservatives.
- In the state’s 1st District, 25-year-old Karoline Leavitt, a former Trump and Elise Stefanik staffer, defeated McCarthy-endorsed Matt Mowers. She’ll be facing Rep. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.) in a major House battleground.
- “The media, the Washington establishment and the Democrats counted us out. They said I was too young, we couldn’t raise the money to compete and we could never beat a former Republican nominee,” Leavitt said in declaring victory.
- In the state’s 2nd District, Keene Mayor George Hansel, an abortion-rights supporter, conceded to conservative activist Bob Burns. Republican strategists viewed Hansel’s moderate mayoral record as critical to prospects to defeat Rep. Annie Kuster (D-N.H.).
What we’re watching: The Cook Political Report with Amy Walter said it would be moving Kuster’s race from a toss-up to “lean Democrat” and kept the “lean Democrat” rating for the Senate race.
- The McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund committed to spend $23 million against Hassan in the general election, but with Bolduc as the nominee, that’s an open question.
Between the lines: Democratic super PACs also intervened in two of these three Republican primaries, attacking Morse in the Senate race and boosting Burns.
- Their money likely made a difference in hurting the GOP’s prospects, given the narrow margins in both contests.
The bottom line: Former President Donald Trump didn’t endorse in any of these races. That shows that even without Trump’s involvement, the energy within the Republican Party is squarely against the establishment.
- Outside Republican money for more-mainstream candidates didn’t make a difference.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated after AP officially called the races.