“Watching these two try to outdo each other, Matt trying to distinguish between speaking in good faith about his Trump administration while preserving his general election eligibility… allowed an opening for Leavitt, who presents himself as this pure Trump, candidate who refuses the election,” said Fergus Cullen, former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party who is voting for Russell Prescott, a former member of the New Hampshire Executive Council.
Cullen said he wouldn’t vote for Leavitt if she won the nomination – ‘New Hampshire doesn’t need a Marjorie Taylor Greene or a Lauren Boebert to represent us,’ he said — a sentiment that highlights fears over a Leavitt win.
Mowers’ ties to New Hampshire date back to the 2014 election cycle, when he worked as executive director of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee. During the 2016 cycle, Mowers first worked for Chris Christie as the Governor of New Jersey sought the GOP presidential nomination. But when Christie’s campaign failed, Mowers went to work for the Trump campaign and, after the Republican victory, the State Department. The Clippers, with Trump’s backing, then unsuccessfully challenged Pappas in 2020.
By comparison, Leavitt is more of a political newcomer. After graduating from Saint Anselm College in 2019, the Republican went to work at the Trump White House. She eventually became deputy press secretary under White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. After Trump’s loss, she went to work for Representative Elise Stefanik, now the third House Republican.
Although Mowers operates on Trump-backed politics — his website screams “Drain the Swamp” and has an entire page on “Election Integrity” — his style is more measured than the brand of politics that has defined the orbit of political cronies. of Trump, a caution that opened the door to the more aggressive Leavitt.
Recent primary debates have highlighted these stylistic differences.
That wasn’t enough for Leavitt, who lambasted Mowers and echoed Trump’s lies about the 2020 election.
“I reject that,” she said.
Leavitt was unequivocal. “Yes,” she said, citing border security.
Mowers was more cautious, calling for “hearings to consider these things.”
The race has also divided the House leadership.
Money flooded the race, millions were spent trying to protect Mowers from a Leavitt push.
Democrats watched the primary with a mixture of apprehension, joy and concern.
Collin Gately, a spokesman for Pappas, said the Republican primary was dominated by “extremism and ugliness” and that none of the candidates “have a clue how to help families in New Hampshire, and voters will reject their extreme agenda.”
But even the most optimistic members of the party recognize that Pappas is vulnerable. Still, many believe the controversial GOP primary — along with the fact that the race ends in September, less than two months before the general election — could help the New Hampshire Democrat win.
In response to the president’s plan to cancel a debate on student loans, Pappas said he “should be more focused and paid so as not to make the deficit worse.”
Mowers is married to a senior CNN video producer.
CNN’s David Wright contributed to this report.