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New Hampshire Races Are a Battle of Conservative vs. Liberal, Not Republican vs. Democrat

Posted on Wednesday, October 19, 2022
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AMAC Exclusive – By Daniel Berman

new hampshire

With the motto of “Live Free or Die,” New Hampshire stands out in collectivist New England. It has no sales or income tax, and both houses of the legislature are controlled by Republicans, who captured them in 2020, even as Joe Biden carried the state by 7%. Yet Joe Biden’s victory was the fifth successive victory for the Democratic presidential candidate since New Hampshire became the only state to flip from voting for George Bush in 2000 to John Kerry in 2004. Both U.S. House and Senate seats are in the hands of Democrats, with first-term U.S. Senator and former Governor Maggie Hassan up for reelection this November. Both Hassan’s race, against the Republican nominee, retired Brigadier General Don Bolduc, and the two U.S. House races are considered competitive.

Analysts struggle with New Hampshire. The New Hampshire electorate, while not immune to the trends apparent elsewhere in the country, has a habit of confounding them. In an era where split-ticket voting has been in steady decline, New Hampshire voters are a notable exception. In 2020, even as they reelected their other Democrat Senator, Jeanne Shaheen, by 15% and two Democrat U.S. House candidates by 11%, they also reelected their Republican Governor, Chris Sununu, by a landslide margin of 65%-33%, and voted for Republicans in races for the State House, Senate, and Executive Council by an average of 51%-49%.

Office 2020 Margin
President 52.71%-45.3% D
Governor 65.1%-33.4% R
Senate 56.6%-41% D
Congress 52.59%-44.98% D
State House 50.9%-48.9% R

While this level of ticket-splitting is unusual nationally, it is not unheard of in New England, where Massachusetts and Vermont also have Republican governors. Maine had a Republican governor as well, from 2011-2019. Republicans even controlled the Maine State Senate from 2015-2019. Lest this be of reassurance to Democrats that New Hampshire is only willing to vote for Republicans in local races, it is worth keeping in mind that Maine voters defied the polls to reelect Susan Collins to the Senate in 2020, and Republican Bruce Poliquin held Maine’s 2nd congressional district seat from 2015 to 2019.

Nonetheless, federal races are without a doubt much more polarized in New Hampshire than those for state office. In 2020, the margins for Democrats in the U.S. House elections were nearly identical, at 7.61% to Joe Biden’s margin of 7.41%. In 2016, the last time all three races were on the ballot, a similar split result occurred. Hillary Clinton narrowly carried the state by less than 1%, Hassan beat incumbent Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte, who had broken with Donald Trump, by an even smaller margin with a high third-party vote, and Republican Chris Sununu won the governor’s race by 2% while the GOP held both houses of the legislature.

The outcome of the 2016 election raises an important question about New Hampshire’s “blue” reputation. Unlike the rest of New England, confidence in Democrat strength in New Hampshire is built around not the margins of Democrat victories, but their consistency. A shift of a mere 1% to the GOP would have delivered New Hampshire’s electoral votes to Donald Trump and allowed Kelly Ayotte to hold her Senate seat. At the very least such an outcome would have shifted the narrative.

Year President Governor Senate House House Seats
2008 54%-45% D 70%-28% D 52%-45% D 54%-44% D 2-0D
2010 N/A 53%-45% D 60%-37% R 51%-45% R 2-0R
2012 52%-46% D 55%-43% D N/A 50%-46% D 2-0D
2014 N/A 52%-47% D 52%-48% D 51%-48% D 1-1 tie
2016 48%-47% D 49%-47% R 48%-48% D 47%-44% D 2-0D
2018 N/A 53%-45% R N/A 55%-44% D 2-0D
2020 53-45% D 65-34% R 57%-41% D 53%-45% D 2-0D

Instead, the consistency of narrow defeats has led both Democrats and far too many Republicans to conclude that Republicans cannot actually win some congressional races even if they can get close, and that Democrats cannot lose.

There is some support for this in the results over the last decade. Republican support ranged between 44% and 46% in 2008, 2012, 2016, 2018, and 2020 for U.S. House, and between 45% and 47% in every presidential election since 2008. Honorary New Hampshire resident (and former Massachusetts governor) Mitt Romney, whose family owns a residence in Wolfeboro in the Lakes Region of central New Hampshire, was unable to break this pattern, and in fact performed worse in 2012 than Donald Trump would in 2016.

This consistency is one reason why Republicans in the state legislature were so determined to redraw the state’s congressional districts to create one safe Democrat seat and one Republican-leaning one. But Governor Sununu vetoed the proposed map, insisting on one nearly identical to the current map that left both districts leaning Democrat. Sununu argued that both seats remained winnable for Republicans, and were won by Republicans in 2010. But they were only won in that year, and in recent years have been so inflexible that even in 2016, when the Democrats only won the national congressional vote by 3%, they carried both seats.

Year First District Second District
2004 51%-48% R 52-47% D
2008 53%-46% D 56%-43% D
2012 51%-49% D 54%-45% D
2016 48%-46% R 49%-46% D
2020 52%-46% D 54%-45% D

Whether one sees Sununu as purely self-serving, wrong, or potentially insightful depends on how you interpret the only election in the last decade in which this stability vanished. In 2010, Republicans won not 46% of the U.S. House vote but 51%, 6% more than the Democrats, winning both seats. That was not the only thing that went wrong for Democrats in what is remembered as the annus horribilis of the New Hampshire Democratic Party. Democrats, who had just won control of the entire state government for the first time since the Great Depression, not only saw sitting Congressman Paul Hodes lose the U.S. Senate Race to State Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, who had never run for elective office before, by a 60%-37% margin, but were all but wiped out in the state legislature, where they went from a 14-10 majority in the State Senate and a 224-176 majority in the State House, to 19-5 and 298-102 minorities. Incumbent Democrat Governor John Lynch, who had won 70% of the vote in 2008, proved both the willingness of New Hampshire voters to split their tickets and the direness of the year by winning by a mere 53%-46% margin.

What happened? Understanding the answer to that question is key to forming judgements about New Hampshire politics in general and the state of the 2022 races in particular. Was it a one-off, in which case it is a deviation from a trend of consistent Democrat victories, albeit sometimes narrow? Was it what happens in New Hampshire when Democrats have a bad midterm nationally? Or was it the product of circumstances unique to the state which could happen again?

The answer Democrats embrace, along with many analysts, albeit with an asterisk, is that it was a one-off, unique circumstance. After all, they note, even in 2014, when things were if anything even more dire for Democrat Senate candidates, Jeanne Shaheen held off a challenge from former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, while Democrats only lost one of the two House seats, and that one narrowly. But proving that a bad national midterm is not a sufficient factor for a GOP wave in New Hampshire does not mean that there are not factors present in 2022 which can produce such a wave.

In 2010 there were factors specific to New Hampshire. Democrats had taken full control of the state government for the first time in decades and, following Obama’s and Shaheen’s victories in 2008, they concluded that New Hampshire was now a blue state. Abandoning the caution which had led them to pose as traditional small-c New England conservatives offended by George W. Bush’s Iraq War, social conservatism, and bailout of big banks, they embarked on a program to transform New Hampshire into Massachusetts. Symbolically, this included a vote to legalize same-sex marriage, as well as new environmental laws, gun control, and hints that two of the state’s sacred cows, the lack of income and sales taxes, may be on the chopping block.

The 2010 elections in New Hampshire therefore took on the tinge of a referendum on not only Barack Obama, which would have seen Democratic losses but perhaps not a wipeout, but also on whether New Hampshire should stay New Hampshire or become Massachusetts. With even Massachusetts unsure it wanted to embrace “Massachusetts” after the victory of Scott Brown earlier that year, the result was a wipeout for the Democrats.

This history indicates that New Hampshire voters generically may marginally prefer national Democrats to national Republicans when it comes to “leaving them alone”, but when forced to choose between unfiltered liberalism and conservatism, they will choose conservatism. Those analysts who suggest that New Hampshire is a marginally “blue state,” at least at the federal level, have a point. But they miss that it is also a conservative state. Democrats may beat Republicans, but voters will not consent to be governed by liberals.

That is where analysis of the 2022 races in New Hampshire evinces a major blind spot. It has become an article of conviction among both analysts and Democrats that Republicans nominated the “wrong” candidates for Senate and Congress. For the Senate, Brigadier General Don Bolduc was seen as the more Trump-friendly candidate and clashed with the popular Governor Sununu. In the First District, Karoline Leavitt, the Republican nominee and a former Trump White House staffer, is only 25 years-old, leading Democrats to dismiss her despite a strong showing in the primary against the establishment favorite and an impressive grassroots operation. In the Second Congressional District, Sununu’s favored candidate, the mayor of Keane, George Hansel, lost the primary to Robert Burns, a former county official.

If New Hampshire were a state which was more Republican than conservative, it might be the case that the GOP is indeed in trouble. But the reverse is true. John McCain and Mitt Romney lost the state to Barack Obama by 9% and 6% respectively. Donald Trump, however, was only edged out by Hillary Clinton by a margin of 0.37% in 2016. Lest there be too much focus on third parties, Donald Trump’s 47.25% of the vote in 2016 was higher in raw terms than Mitt Romney’s 46.4%, despite Romney, with 47.2%, winning a higher percentage nationally than Donald Trump’s 46.1%. In other words, Romney did 0.8% worse in New Hampshire than he did nationally. Donald Trump did 1.1% better.

When it comes to the U.S. House races, Trump’s geographic distribution of support is worse than Romney’s, as Trump did almost identically in both seats, but there is no reason to think New Hampshire is a particularly anti-MAGA state, or that being pro-Trump will lead to the defeat of GOP candidates.

Of the three Republican nominees, Burns is perhaps the weakest, having barely won his primary with 32.9%, and having advocated for a constitutional ban on all abortion. But it does not speak well to Hansel’s potential strength that he was unable to win the primary, and the seat is likely the most uphill of the three races. Even in 2010, former Republican Congressman Charlie Bass, who had represented it for almost two decades, barely retook it in an open race by 3%.

As for the other two races, while Chris Sununu would likely have been a stronger candidate than almost anyone, Bolduc has rapidly consolidated support, including from Sununu. A former general with extensive television experience, he comes off as anything but an extremist. Instead, he is more like the sort of retired veteran that is a fixture of local culture throughout the state. It is far from clear that his leading “establishment” opponent, former state Senate President Chuck Morse would have been particularly stronger. Morse lacked money or a profile, and did not campaign as a particularly moderate figure. Bolduc is a much more impressive media performer, and able to draw on a much more motivated activist base. It is unclear why, for instance, voters for whom abortion is the leading issue would have been tempted to vote for one of the authors of New Hampshire’s 24-week ban, as opposed to Bolduc, due to the latter’s endorsement by Donald Trump. Bolduc is much better positioned to make a case, if the electorate is interested in hearing it.

When it comes to Karoline Leavitt, the two major charges against her are her age and that she worked in Donald Trump’s White House. The latter charge highlights a rejoinder to the former. Despite her youth, Leavitt has compiled an impressive resume, including work in the Trump press office, later on Capitol Hill as the communications director for Elise Stefanik, the number three Republican in the House. Furthermore, her main primary opponent, Matt Mowers, the 2020 GOP nominee for the seat, also worked in the Trump administration. Leavitt’s success in defeating Mowers speaks to her strength. Meanwhile, incumbent Democrat Chris Pappas underperformed Biden in 2020 and only managed to match Biden’s eventual performance in the Democratic landslide year of 2018.

We can reasonably conclude that with Leavitt, Republicans probably chose their strongest candidate, and that with Bolduc, the question of whether the General will do better or worse than Morse is up in the air. The certainty with which analysts dismiss the prospects of Leavitt and Bolduc due to links to the former President who came within .37% of winning the state is misplaced.

In fact, Democrats seem aware of this. Maggie Hassan’s attack ads on Bolduc show the candidate with Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell. Donald Trump does not appear in the ads at all. This indicates that Democrats themselves believe that being linked to Mitch McConnell is far more damaging than being linked to Donald Trump. Hassan, meanwhile, has been subject to a number of damaging attacks on her record that paint her as a decided enemy of conservatism, including one withering two-minute TV ad that exposes her voting record – including her support for policies that would jeopardize New Hampshire’s first in the nation primary status.

Even Democrats know that they want to run against the representative of the Republican establishment, Mitch McConnell, not conservatism or Donald Trump. The question is whether Democrat fears of a repeat of 2010 will be realized.

While Republicans present an unabashed choice of conservatism, the national Democratic Party has embarked on an unprecedented campaign of cultural and social transformation. While there is no Democratic legislature in New Hampshire for voters to revolt against, that they ousted their Democrat majorities locally while voting for Biden and Shaheen is evidence that they will not suffer woke government. The question is whether they now see that as a threat at the national level. If they do, New Hampshire may or may not be red. It will come down to conservative vs. liberal, not Republican vs. Democrat.

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SAMSON
SAMSON
1 year ago

It does not matter how we label it, it is now “GOOD vs. EVIL” The democrats used to be ok back in the 1960’s, but not now. There are some bad republican’s also known as the rhino’s, but the democrats are pure evil, everything they stand for is against GOD and what he has planned for our way of life on this planet. America was blessed and created as a nation under GOD that is the only reason America prospered and became the light of the world. Now we are turning away from GOD and if we do not turn back to the LORD we will continue to spiral downward until we are no more. If there are some non believer’s out there just take a look around at our society and the world, if you cannot see that we are headed in the wrong direction then you need to open your eye’s.

Rik
Rik
1 year ago

Since today’s Democratic Party Leadership is Progressively Communist wannabes, it should be Communist versus Non-Communist!

ezed2109
ezed2109
1 year ago

Every race for these midterms should be Republican vs Socialist Democrat. Numerous times Democrats have run as moderates only to get in office and still vote the Progressive Left party line on every major piece of Legislation. This applies to Federal, Governor, State Legislators, Mayors, Prosecutors… even School Boards!
Not happy with Republicans, but at least they are not causing most of the problems! Hopefully we can also get a better quality of Republicans… a lot of new names out there.

Vicky Kramer
Vicky Kramer
1 year ago

Unfortunately, we have liberals in the Republican Party. The Liberal definition has changed over the years. The definition has changed. Today it is the label liberal that accuses people of wanting more government regulation of business and industry. The definition has changed. Liberal now means more government regulation, tax and spend, and government solutions to social problems when the original liberal wanted less government intervention. I perfer leftist to define these people.

Va.
Va.
1 year ago

Stop calling them “ liberals”. They are anything but liberal and are in fact progressives OR socialists.

Larkenson
Larkenson
1 year ago

Anti-White liberals and respectable conservatives that support massive third-world immigration and FORCED assimilation for EVERY White country and ONLY White countries say that they are anti-racist, but their policies will lead to a world with no White people i.e White Genocide.
Anti-racist is a code word for anti-White.

Bill on the Hill
Bill on the Hill
1 year ago

NH, my immediate neighbor to the east, about 15 miles east to be a little more precise. Like NH, VT too has a RINO governor, however our RINO gov. rules within a den of snakes, i.e. a Democrat controlled majority in both Houses for better than ( 50 ) years now…Chris Sununu, the RINO gov. of NH has the advantage of having Republican control of both Houses…Of key importance here due to this fact is NH does NOT allow CRT to be taught in their public K-12 school systems throughout the state by LAW. In VT, conversely, RINO gov. Phil Scott in his 1st term brought VT unnecessary gun laws, gov. Scott allowed Montpelier to become a ” Sanctuary City ” to illegal immigrants, allows the DMV to issue these illegals drivers licenses, allowed a extreme violent Marxist organization to paint in large bold letters across Main Street, directly in front of the State Capitol building the words Black Lives Matter, allowed public schools & colleges across the state to fly the BLM flag right along with the State flag & the American flag, but the icing on the cake for all Vermonters & the most precious commodity they have, their children, to be allowed the indoctrination of these young minds on CRT & gender studies, none of which belongs in any school system. New Hampshire, thank goodness, got it right because the Socialist Democrat Party of America does NOT have a House majority in Concord, the Republicans do in fact, hence by State Law, no racist instruction, i.e. CRT nor gender studies are allowed in the state’s K-12 public school system as I’m so grateful for this for both my lovely granddaughters attend public schools in NH, one is now a senior & the other one is an 8th grader in Middle School & will attend high school next year…I live in Vermont, 80% of my taxes go towards a Middle School in my area & reading their annual budget is the CRT described in most creative ways to fool the taxpayers, I find it troubling that I don’t here any uproar over the teaching across the state of Vermont of CRT & Gender Studies by the parents of said students being taught this EVIL material…
Bill… :~)

Henker
Henker
1 year ago

Stolen Elections by the Tammany Irish Whitetrash and their JewBagmen are bound to amplify the ObamaBiden RaceWar into a full fledged civil war eventually.

Henker
Henker
1 year ago

Democrats and their radicalized streetthugs intend to destroy white culture, and they WILL murder as many white people as they can possibly get away with.

johnh
johnh
1 year ago

Two other state races were interesting yesterday: 1) Abrams for Gov in Georgia did not do well and 2) Rubio got beat up pretty good in Florida by Demings………….Voters will decide.

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