A lot of national attention is being focused on the New Hampshire US Senate race and rightly so.
Incumbent first-term Senator Maggie Hassan entered the midterm year as the most vulnerable Democrat in the country. She won in 2016 by barely more than 1,000 votes, her approval ratings are consistently around 35 percent, and Democrats are expected to get crushed this year in swing areas like New Hampshire. Democrats are already hanging onto the slimmest of margins in the Senate.
But her situation may not be as bad as it seems. And there will be plenty of twists and turns before the ballots are cast, a fact that was underlined by the swirl of events in the Granite State race in recent days.
Here is a breakdown of the five things we learned this week about this potentially crucial race:
We found out Republican fundraising was really bad
We officially learned last weekend that Hassan extended a large fundraising gap over the field of Republican candidates taking her on.
Last year Republicans from Mitch McConnell to Mitt Romney and former president George W. Bush personally entreated New Hampshire Republican Governor Chris Sununu to get in the race. In November, he declined. Two months later, both state Senate President Chuck Morse and Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith joined the Republican primary. Neither of the insider candidates has been able to gain much traction with donors, according to the latest campaign finance filings.
During the first fundraising quarter of the year, Hassan raised $4.3 million, while Morse raised $750,000 and Smith raised $409,000.
The two candidates aren’t helping themselves with their continued silliness on the campaign trail. Take the Morse news conference on Tax Day this week, where he attempted to chainsaw a stack of papers of the US tax code. He couldn’t get the chainsaw to start, and the outdoor press conference was trolled by anti-COVID mandate protesters with a bullhorn that drowned out Morse’s remarks.
The Republican field has now grown to five
Sensing an opportunity, Bruce Fenton, a bitcoin entrepreneur, entered the race early this month. This week a recent pandemic transplant from Massachusetts named Vikram Mansharamani also jumped in and hired a who’s who of well-known political consultants.
That brought the field of candidates to five. And that might lift the boat of the fifth candidate, Don Bolduc. Bolduc has a base of votes among conservatives from his 2020 unsuccessful Senate run. He is often derided among the political class as an unserious candidate due to his poor fundraising and unsteadiness on the stump, including an incident where Fox News instantly fact-checked him on air recently. But he is also the only Republican candidate who has talked to former president Trump.
The Democratic base is upset with Hassan
Hassan has her own problems. Last week, she took a bold stand on immigration that many in the Democratic base felt sounded Republican. Hassan has tried to brand herself as a political moderate, but rarely has the base gotten this upset with her.
While many Democrats have disagreed with the Biden administration’s decision to quickly eliminate the Title 42 regulations preventing the processing of asylum claims on the Southern border due to the pandemic, she took it a step further. She went to the border, cut a digital video there, and said that parts of the border wall should still be built.
Open letters to Hassan from Latino groups began popping up on the Web. Then a Democratic state representative gave a speech against it that made the rounds. Hassan needs to lock down every Democratic vote she can get this November.
A new poll out shows the race tied
With an unpopular incumbent and unknown challengers facing off in a swing state, maybe it should be no surprise that a University of New Hampshire poll on Thursday found Hassan statistically tied with every Republican running.
In the poll, only 35 percent of New Hampshire voters had a favorable view of her while 51 percent had an unfavorable view. The field of Republican candidates was mostly unknown. But in a sliver of good news for Hassan, those who did know the challengers viewed them unfavorably.
National parties aren’t spending money on the contest yet
With a race this tight, one would think that there would be national money flooding the state. But that hasn’t happened. This week, the political action committees aligned with McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer reserved $141 million in television advertising spots in seven Senate battleground states.
New Hampshire, where Hassan has a huge fundraising advantage, wasn’t among them. It could be an indication that Washington politicos are as unsure about the direction of this race as everyone in New Hampshire.
James Pindell can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell and on Instagram @jameswpindell.