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9/13 Primary Watchlist

SENATE

NEW HAMPSHIRE

In the GOP primary, retired Army brigadier general Don Bolduc leads the race to challenge incumbent Democratic senator (and former New Hampshire Governor) Maggie Hassan in November. In a continuation of a theme that the GOP has faced this cycle, Bolduc is likely to be the least electable candidate that the New Hampshire GOP could send out of this primary field, having made a series of controversial remarks on the 2020 election, the FBI, and Governor Chris Sununu himself, calling the popular Republican governor a “communist sympathizer”.

Given the importance of candidate quality in an elastic, heavily pro-choice Biden +7 state, especially against an incumbent who has a track record of overperformance and a history of statewide electoral success, the GOP establishment, led by Chris Sununu, has thrown its weight behind state Senate majority leader Chuck Morse, who is positioned as the ostensibly more moderate alternative. However, Morse’s campaign remains at a significant polling deficit behind Bolduc, and the polling average has Bolduc up by double digits. Given how prior primaries have gone across the nation, we rate this race as LEAN BOLDUC — while a Morse win wouldn’t necessarily come as a huge shock, it is decidedly not the modal outcome to expect given the data that we do have.

Whoever wins will go up against Hassan in a race that we have currently rated at LEANS DEMOCRATIC. With that said, the race is much closer to Likely Democratic than it is to Tossup, and a ratings change in the near future is certainly very possible if Bolduc wins the nomination and struggles to pivot for the general election.

GOVERNOR

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Governor Chris Sununu (R) should glide to both renomination and reelection, albeit by a narrower margin than two years ago, against State Senator Tom Sherman (D). Split Ticket rating: SAFE REPUBLICAN.

RHODE ISLAND

In the Democratic primary, Governor Dan McKee faces stiff opposition, particularly in Nellie Gorbea, Rhode Island’s secretary of state. This is in part due to his rise to power, which came after the appointment of then-governor Gina Raimondo as the Secretary of Commerce. McKee is running for his first full term as governor, and so he lacks the primary-election benefits elected incumbents enjoy. Despite the strong primary challenge, a large field, and unsatisfactory polling numbers, this race LEANS McKee.

Republicans are poised to nominate Ashley Kalus, a business owner, to face whichever candidate the Democrats nominate. Regardless of that selection, Split Ticket rates this race as SAFE DEMOCRATIC.

HOUSE

NEW HAMPSHIRE

District 1

One of the top Republican targets in New England is the 1st district (Biden +6), held by two-term Democratic Congressman Chris Pappas. While his chances of general election victory have undoubtedly improved as a result of recent environmental shifts, the race remains a TOSSUP.

The GOP primary to determine Pappas’s opponent is one of the most fractured in the country, juxtaposing 2020 nominee Matt Mowers against former staffer Karoline Leavitt. At just 25, Leavitt would replace Madison Cawthorn as the youngest Republican member of Congress if she were to win both the primary and the general. Polling thus far has generally shown Mowers with leads ranging from modest to comfortable, so Split Ticket is inclined to go with a LEANS MOWERS rating.

Two more candidates, Gail Huff Brown and state representative Tim Baxter, are expected to fight for the third and fourth places without contending for outright victory. Huff Brown is the wife of former U.S. Senator Scott Brown. Baxter, like Leavitt, would be a very young addition to Congress if he were to win.

District 2

Democrat Anne Kuster, who has represented New Hampshire’s western district since 2013, is a favorite for re-election this year regardless of her opponent. But the winner of the Republican primary could very well determine just how close the November race is. The GOP must ultimately pay thanks to Governor Chris Sununu’s for his insistence on drawing two competitive seats in redistricting, which allowed Republicans to keep the 2nd (Biden +9) on the board.

Two main GOP candidates are competing for the nomination in here tonight: Keene Mayor George Hansel and ex-County Treasurer Robert Burns. A third competitor, Lily Tang Williams, rounds out the field with support from Tea Party Express. Two August polls showed Burns, the more conservative candidate, leading the moderate Hansel. Whether Burns will win comfortably remains to be seen, though Split Ticket feels confident in predicting a LEANS BURNS race.

A Burns primary victory would give Kuster a clearer path to re-election than that which she currently enjoys in a race rated LEANS DEMOCRATIC.

RHODE ISLAND

District 2

The 2nd district (Biden +14), located in the Ocean State’s western half, is currently held by retiring Democrat Jim Langevin. Back when Republican momentum looked more promising, this open seat was actually rated TOSSUP. Despite an ostensible post-Dobbs shift in the national environment, credible GOP recruit Allan Fung has been able to keep the 2nd on his party’s radar at LEANS DEMOCRATIC.

Multiple Democrats are seeking the nomination to face the former Cranston Mayor, including frontrunning State Treasurer Seth Magaziner. Polling suggests that he is a clear favorite against progressive ex-state representative David Segal and former Commerce Department member Sarah Morgenthau. Of particular note is Magaziner’s monopolization of union endorsements, which could sway Democratic primary voters in a district with strong white working class roots and connections to organized labor. LIKELY MAGAZINER

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