Don Bolduc has it both ways with the Senate majority on the line

“I said no to that question, and I’m not backing down,” Bolduc said in an interview with Politico, when asked if he would now agree to back McConnell as leader.

Despite his feelings for the Minority Leader, Bolduc remains willing to take McConnell’s money. The Senate Leadership Fund, the Super PAC affiliated with the Republican leader, is on track to spend $23 million on this year’s New Hampshire race. It’s a critical boost for Bolduc, who as an outside candidate has failed to raise significant funds on his own, spending just $500,000 on TV ads so far.

“I very much appreciate Senator McConnell’s support, but that’s his job,” Bolduc said. “So to me, it’s not something we should all be amazed at. We should expect his support and he should do everything in his power to help us win. »

Bolduc said he hadn’t thought about who he would like to see as the leader instead. When pressed, he said he had “people on his mind, but I’m keeping it to myself.”

Bolduc’s continued resistance to McConnell illustrates the enduring divide within a Republican party that has largely aligned itself with Trump but depends on traditional funding sources, primarily the McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund. It also foreshadows the difficulty Senate Republicans could face at the peak of their program, should they regain a majority.

As the GOP entered the midterm election cycle on a wave of anti-Biden momentum, Biden’s approval ratings remain weak. But the GOP nonetheless found itself in tougher races than expected in states like New Hampshire, with incumbent Democratic senators being questioned in front of the president. The GOP now seems poised to secure a tiny majority at best, rather than ushering in a massive red wave and comfortable margins in the chamber.

But Bolduc’s stance on leadership in Washington is unlikely to hurt voters for him, as McConnell remains unpopular in both parties. Incumbent Democratic Senator Maggie Hassanthat Bolduc is tough this fall, sought to link Bolduc to McConnell, noting that the leader has launched a national abortion ban and suggested that Bolduc would support him.

Bolduc, who ran as a “pro-life” primary candidate and said he wouldn’t vote otherwise, in the general election stressed he would not support a federal abortion ban and believes that the law should be established at the state level.

It’s a “really, really close race,” Hassan said in an interview. “New Hampshire is always close.”

Even though public polls show Bolducs about 7 points behind Hassan, the Senate Leadership Fund – the race’s top spender – opted to keep its $23 million investment in place. It’s a sign that the group, which tends to make its spending decisions based on data, sees a GOP victory here as possible in the current economic and political environment. The Super PAC kept its funds in New Hampshire even as they pulled money from Arizona, another high-profile battleground where other Republican groups have rushed to bridge the SLF divide. .

“I know how Republicans feel about this race because of the amount of money Mitch McConnell is spending on this seat,” Hassan said.

The Democrat expressed optimism that anger over Republican plans to limit access to abortion would motivate his party: “When I talk to voters, there are a lot of concerns about rising costs…but I was talking to a reproductive health group. People were like, “I could vote differently this year, but body autonomy is the #1 thing because everything else depends on it.” »

Hassan sought to highlight areas where she disagreed with Biden, noting on Tuesday that she urged the White House to release more oil from its reserves to help ease the pain consumers are feeling at the gas pump. .

“I think he was a bit too slow and the administration was a bit slow to acknowledge it,” Hassan said.

But in a debate Tuesday morning, the first between Hassan and Bolduc, the senator defended Biden’s mental acumen and ability to fill the president’s office. Asked in a later interview if it would be helpful for Biden to campaign with her, Hassan smiled.

“The president is always welcome in New Hampshire,” she said.

Without any significant advertising budget, Bolduc tirelessly traveled the state holding low-cost grassroots events and town halls with voters.

Supporters emerged from an Italian restaurant midday in his hometown of Laconia on Monday, packing onto a patio in the rain to listen through an open door for remarks inside. He was accompanied by Tulsi Gabbard, the former Hawaii congresswoman and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate who has since denounced her former party.

Wearing his Letterman jacket in high school in the photo line afterwards, Bolduc hugged and hugged back from old classmates who called him “Donnie,” family friends who greeted his late father, and from new supporters who said they had driven hours for the event. That night, the campaign ran out of chairs at the North Conway Community Center, where Bolduc and Gabbard held a rally.

He also stumped Tuesday with Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador.

After running to the right of most Republican primary candidates this year, casting himself as the loudest in the field, Bolduc set out to appeal to a wider swath of voters. At the start of campaign events, he says he expects there to be Republicans, independents and Democrats in the room. During their stops with Gabbard, the duo emphasized the need for opposing sides to work together to achieve common sense solutions.

Bolduc met Gabbard in New Hampshire during the 2020 election cycle, when he was running in the Republican Senate primary — a race he lost — and as she sought the Democratic nomination for president. The two were at an American Legion event in the town of Meredith, where Bolduc said he was “very impressed” with the then-Democrat.

At a steel company in Greenland on Tuesday, Bolduc said his first phone call if elected to the Senate would be to the senator. Jeanne Shaheensenior Democratic state senator.

“I think you and I can come together to do three very important things,” Bolduc told the acidies gathered in a small cafeteria room, enacting the call he would make to Shaheen. He said he would ask her for help “influencing the current administration of Democrats to reverse” its policies that caused the inflation; He would suggest they would make a concerted effort to be an example of how a state’s bipartisan senators could work together; And he would ask her for help to secure the border.

Ed Butler, chairman of the Carroll County Democratic Party, where Bolduc and Hassan campaigned earlier this week and participated in the first debate, described the county as “always purple – we’re not blue. We are not red. Biden won the county by less than 2 percentage points in 2020, although Shaheen won by double digits.

“He definitely fights,” Butler said of Bolduc. “And it’s a challenge, and Maggie will rise to meet her.”

As to whether Bolduc will now welcome the support of Trump, who refused to endorse anyone in the primary, he said he would. But he said New Hampshire voters wouldn’t have wanted anyone from outside to “meddle in their primary,” something Trump has done in other competitive Senate races this year.

“I think what our election did was show that with less than $500,000, working hard over two years and going out to every town and city, you can win against power and money.” , said Bolduc. “And my hat’s off to the granite staters for accomplishing that. It is quite significant. »

By Election Day, the Senate Leadership Fund is expected to run more than $8 million in ads on Bolduc’s behalf, more than any other advertiser in the race.

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