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Democrats' Meddling Made Critical Senate Seat Close to Unwinnable for GOP

Newsweek 9/19/2022 Nick Reynolds
Republican Senate candidate Don Bolduc greets supporters at a town hall event on September 10, 2022 in Laconia, New Hampshire. Bolduc is running against Bruce Fenton and Chuck Morse in the in the upcoming GOP primary. © Scott Eisen/Getty Images Republican Senate candidate Don Bolduc greets supporters at a town hall event on September 10, 2022 in Laconia, New Hampshire. Bolduc is running against Bruce Fenton and Chuck Morse in the in the upcoming GOP primary.

National Democrats spent big dollars boosting a number of hardline conservatives in roughly a dozen Republican primaries this summer in the hope those candidates' polarizing brand of politics would tip independents to support their party's candidates.

Democrats spent nearly $53 million in nine states through September in an effort to boost far-right candidates to victory, according to a Washington Post analysis last week. Entering the fall, Democrats' risky strategy could very well pay off, particularly in one race many observers see as critical to the party maintaining its slim Senate majority next Congress.

With primary season officially coming to a close last week, far-right candidates favored by Democrats had won six out of 13 total races they'd competed in nationwide, potentially helping tilt the tables toward Democratic candidates in states like Illinois and Nevada.

The party's success is likely to be most evident in New Hampshire, where Democrats helped elevate a pair of far-right congressional candidates as well as Republican U.S. Senate candidate Don Bolduc, whose chief opponent in the primary was the focus of a flood of negative advertising from Republicans and Democrats alike.

Democratic efforts in Maryland to bolster far-right Republican Dan Cox over more establishment choices in the state's gubernatorial primary have set opponent Wes Moore on a course to flip control of the state to Democrats after seven years under Republican Governor Larry Hogan. A Goucher College poll released Monday showed Moore with a 22-point lead over Cox there.


In Illinois, incumbent Governor J.B. Pritzker's campaign spent $34.5 million successfully boosting their preferred candidate Darren Bailey to the Republican nomination, where he currently trails Pritzker by double digits.

And in New Hampshire, Maggie Hassan—who actually trailed GOP runner-up Chuck Morse in some polling before primary day—now finds herself a likely favorite in her reelection bid against Bolduc.

The race remains a competitive environment, however. National polling shows Democrats holding only a slim lead nationally over Republicans in the generic ballot. And while Democrats could very well hold control of the Senate, they still remain underdogs in their effort to maintain control of Congress, and they face competitive gubernatorial races in states like Arizona, Wisconsin and Kansas.

While Democrats' infusion of $425,000 into a Michigan congressional primary helped elevate hardliner John Gibbs over moderate Republican Peter Meijer in a Democratic-leaning district there, Republicans have remained high on their chances there, even as internal polling data from the start of the summer showed Democratic challenger Hillary Scholten's campaign in a stronger position against Gibbs than against Meijer.

In Nevada, a far-right Republican candidate for governor, Joe Lombardo, remains within striking distance of incumbent Democrat Steve Sisolak in polling, even after national Democrats spent big money disparaging his more moderate opponent, Joey Gilbert, in a wild, 15-way GOP primary that featured former U.S. Senator Dean Heller.

And where Democrats failed to shift the primary environment, Republicans remain high on their chances. After Democrats failed to topple Republican Joe O'Dea in Colorado's U.S. Senate race with $4 million in spending against him, the candidate remains a dark horse to flip control of a U.S. Senate seat currently held by Democrat Michael Bennet, attracting significant funds from the national GOP.

Newsweek reached out to the Democratic National Committee for comment.

Correction 09/19/22, 7:54 p.m. ET: This article was updated to reflect the accurate spelling of GOP runner-up Chuck Morse.

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