Senate primary fight plays out on the Hilltop, student reacts to GOP candidates

Jacob Akey, Crier Staff

On the eve of the new student move-in, four men stood in the Dana Center to decide who would challenge incumbent Maggie Hassan for her senate seat. They were there for the Newsmax Debate. August 24th was not the first time the Republican Senate Primary Candidates came to Saint Anselm College to debate this summer. Earlier this summer, they went to the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, joined by a fifth candidate, the doomed, self-funded Vikram Mansharamani. After newly released polling from Saint Anselm College (more on that later), the roster was reduced to four: Fenton, Smith, Morse, and General Bolduc.

Going in order of polling (worst to best), we’ll start with the professional bitcoin shill and defender of “leave me alone values,” Bruce Fenton. He is a healthy reminder that heterodox ideologues are less appealing off Twitter. Reducing taxes or legalizing pot will always win fans in NH, but hardcore isolationism, abolition of federal agencies, and anti-masking hysteria are a harder sell. Despite Fenton’s lack of support, outside of the free stater vanguard, he provided welcome entertainment on an otherwise sedate stage. He restrained himself from shouting at Chuck Morse during this debate, but he did call the elder candidate a tyrant. His argument for free banking, “separate money and state,” was certainly not something you would hear from any mainstream candidate. Other notable moments include a promise not to send “one dollar” to Ukraine, calling Medicare corrupt, and supporting the legalization of all drugs. 

Next up is former Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith. Despite his modest resume, the father of three is a lifelong politico, well-groomed for candidacy. In both debates, he sparkled, with well-rehearsed answers to every question. Most everyone who watched either debate concluded that if Smith wins the primary, Hassan is in trouble.

Second to last is Chuck Morse. An old-school conservative and insider with deep NH connections, the President of the New Hampshire Senate has the experience and resources to mount a serious campaign. Unfortunately, the seemingly amiable Morse is a poor public speaker. 

Finally, the frontrunner. General Bolduc wore reading glasses and spoke softly during the second debate. It was an effect calculated to improve his image among moderates and set him up for a general election unkind to firebrands, but “a hog in armor is still but a hog.” Don Bolduc had, much like the similarly ignominious General Michael Flynn, an honorable military service. The veteran’s advocate is a bonafide war hero who served ten tours in Afghanistan. However, whatever credit might be due is outweighed by his signature of a letter declaring the 2020 election illegitimate. The signers, a cabal of retired officers, wrote that the election was rigged. Implicit in the letter was the threat of action to correct a “hard left turn toward Socialism and a Marxist form of tyrannical government.” The letter, and by extension General Bolduc, claimed “we are in a fight for our survival.” Lies like these will not fly in a New Hampshire general election against a well-funded incumbent. Neither will his attacks on the (deeply popular) Republican Governor Chris Sununu. General Bolduc called Sununu a “Chinese Communist sympathizer.” Senator Hassan would eat his lunch.

Despite the diverse (in personality, not age, race, or gender) candidates, this race is not a close one. Saint Anselm College Survey Center has Don Bolduc polling at 32% support from Republican primary voters, while Chuck Morse sits at 16%. Kevin Smith and Bruce Fenton bring up the rear at 4% each. Given that Bolduc has been about as provocative as a candidate can, with no collapse in support, it seems that his victory is a foregone conclusion. The only uncertainty is a potential endorsement from either Trump or Sununu. Both would carry weight among Republicans and have the potential to boost a candidate ahead of the General. Unless that happens, Bolduc will win the primary on September 13th. A month later, Senator Maggie Hassan will be popping champagne.