The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Daniel Donner, and Cara Zelaya, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
● NH-Sen: The University of New Hampshire's new poll of the Sept. 13 Republican primary shows retired Army Brig. General Donald Bolduc, whom Gov. Chris Sununu recently labeled a "conspiracy-theory extremist" who is "not a serious candidate," posting a serious 43-22 lead over state Senate President Chuck Morse in the contest to face Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan.
This survey comes about two weeks after another Granite State university, Saint Anselm College, gave Bolduc a 32-16 advantage over Morse; nine other candidates are also on the ballot, but none of them exceeded 5% in either poll. We haven't seen any other numbers from the last Senate primary of the entire cycle (unless you count Louisiana's uncompetitive Nov. 8 all-party primary), but even Morse's campaign acknowledged last week that Bolduc is leading their man.
However, a Morse strategist predicted that he'd pull ahead in the final two weeks thanks to his huge financial advantage. The state Senate leader ended June 30 with $980,000 in the bank (updated numbers are due Thursday evening), while Bolduc had just $70,000 to spend.
Bolduc, who lost the 2020 primary for New Hampshire's other Senate seat, has used his second try to carve out a far-right image by embracing the Big Lie, though he seems to be just as passionate about bashing his fellow Republicans. Last year, the retired general accused Sununu of being a "Chinese communist sympathizer" with a family business that "supports terrorism."
Bolduc very much didn't apologize at a recent debate, saying instead, "Listen, he's on the 'Chinese Communist friendly' list as published by our State Department and as briefed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo." He continued, "That's a fact. Now, I've also said that perhaps calling him a Chinese Communist sympathizer was a bit of an exaggeration." Sununu, whom Senate Republicans unsuccessfully tried to recruit here, isn't in a forgiving mood either, saying of Bolduc, "If he were the nominee, I have no doubt we would have a much harder time trying to win that seat back."
Morse, by contrast, is the one GOP candidate who acknowledged that Joe Biden is the president when asked earlier this month if the 2020 election was stolen. He's still more than willing to use Trumpian themes, though, as the narrator in his new commercial pledges the candidate will "finish President Trump's wall."
What the ad doesn't feature, though, is Morse making the case for himself, but there may be a good reason for that. Former state party chair Fergus Cullen told Politico that Morse, whom he supports, "is not flashy, and does not have charisma." Cullen added, "If Trump was all entertainment and drama, Chuck Morse is the opposite—and that could be a liability for him in a primary."
While Trump himself praised Bolduc last year, one prominent MAGA apparatchik is doing what he can to make sure this never turns into a primary endorsement. Corey Lewandowski, who was the first of Trump's many campaign managers, says he's warned his former boss that Bolduc would cost the GOP the seat and predicted that the NRSC wouldn't air ads to support him in a general election. The committee, which has $6.3 million reserved for the fall, did not respond when Politico asked if this was the case.
The other major question looming over the race is whether well-funded allies of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who just last week bemoaned that "candidate quality" could keep the GOP from seizing the majority, will take action to stop Bolduc. So far the answer is no as there's been only minimal outside spending for the GOP primary, but national observers will be watching closely to see if that changes over the final two weeks of the primary season.
● OH-Sen: Impact Research (D) for Tim Ryan: Tim Ryan (D): 50, J.D. Vance (R): 47 (July: 48-45 Ryan)
● PA-Sen, WI-Sen: Republicans recently launched commercials portraying two Democratic Senate nominees, Pennsylvania's John Fetterman and Wisconsin's Mandela Barnes, as extremists who threaten public safety, and each lieutenant governor is adopting a different strategy to push back. Fetterman himself goes directly after Republican Mehmet Oz "and his Gucci loafers" before predicting that his opponent "wouldn't last two hours" in Braddock, the small Western Pennsylvania community Fetterman previously led.
The Democrat's ad then turns to audio of a news report talking about the candidate's many tattoos. "Fetterman wears Braddock's past on his sleeves," a reporter says, "the zip code tattooed on one arm, the dates of murders on the other." Fetterman jumps back in, "Public safety is why I ran for office. When two of my students were murdered, I ran for mayor to stop the violence." He concludes, "I worked side by side with the police, showed up at the crime scenes. We did whatever it took to fund our police and stopped gun deaths for five years."
Barnes, by contrast, avoids mentioning Republican incumbent Ron Johnson, much less the senator's footwear, in his own response spot. The candidate instead stands in his kitchen and tells the audience the GOP is lying about him and "claiming I want to defund the police and abolish ICE." Instead, the Democrat declares, "I'll make sure the police have the resources and training they need to keep our communities safe, and our communities have the resources to stop crime before it happens."
Barnes goes on to pledge to "bring back manufacturing" and "pass a middle-class tax cut" before adding that "if that's too scary for Washington, then so be it."
● IL-Gov: The Illinoize, a blog run by former GOP strategist Patrick Pfingsten, has released a survey from Victory Geek showing Democratic Gov. J.D. Pritzker beating Republican Darren Bailey 56-38.
● NH-02: The group Democrats Serve is making an effort to meddle in one of the few remaining GOP primary contests on the calendar by launching what Politico's Ally Mutnick says is a small $94,000 cable buy to boost former Hillsborough County Treasurer Robert Burns on Sept. 13. The spot features a clip of Burns proclaiming, "I'm also the only pro-Trump, unapologetic conservative," adding, "I'm against pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens. I want to build the wall, and I'm an America First candidate."
Burns' main intra-party foe in the race to take on Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster is Keene Mayor George Hansel, a self-described "pro-choice" candidate backed by Gov. Chris Sununu. Mutnick writes that Hansel has outspent Burns $150,000 to $16,000 on TV ads, while a group called American Liberty Action PAC has also deployed close to $300,000 for the mayor. The only poll we've seen here was a mid-August Saint Anselm College survey that showed Burns up 12-10 as another 8% went to Lily Tang Williams, who was the 2016 Libertarian Party nominee for Senate in Colorado.
Dollar amounts reflect the reported size of ad buys and may be larger.