GOP primary in New Hampshire’s 1st district is more about style than substance

But in Tuesday’s race to be the Republican candidate in New Hampshire1st Congressional District Republicans Matt Mowers and Karoline Leavitt are in a tug of war that’s more about style than substance, a fight that has fractured Republican loyalties and underscored just how much to follow Trump’s policies in a Republican primary n is often not as powerful as running like Trump himself.
Mowers and Leavitt are considered the two best candidates in a large group of Republicans seeking to assume Rep. Chris Pappas, one of the nation’s most vulnerable House Democrats. With election forecasters tempering their months-old predictions of a crushing red wave election for Republicans this month of novemberright-wing operatives view targets like Pappas as must-wins if the GOP is to take control of the chamber.

“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.

Recent survey shows that the race is at an impasse. A Granite State poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire and released in late August found Mowers at 26% and Leavitt at 24%, within the survey’s margin of error. A significant 26% of likely Republican primary voters were undecided.
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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.

Earlier this month, when Mowers was asked if he had confidence in the election, says the candidate“I have confidence in the New Hampshire election,” but added there was room for “improvement.”

That wasn’t enough for Leavitt, who lambasted Mowers and echoed Trump’s lies about the 2020 election.

“I still continue to be the only candidate in this race to have said that I think the 2020 election was undoubtedly stolen from President Trump,” Leavitt said, attacking Mowers by noting that he voted twice in the 2016 primaries and saying Mowers agrees with Joe Biden that the president “rightfully won more votes than Donald Trump.”

“I reject that,” she said.

These differences continued when asked if Biden should be impeached.

Leavitt was unequivocal. “Yes,” she said, citing border security.

Mowers was more cautious, calling for “hearings to consider these things.”

After the debate, hosted by WMUR, Leavitt put a finer point on its strategy“Voters are finally waking up to who Matt Mowers is. He’s a sidekick politician who can’t answer a direct question,” she told the outlet.

The race has also divided the House leadership.

Representatives Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise, the two top Republicans in the House, have both approved mowers. Leavitt, in addition to Stefanik’s supportalso gained the support of some of the more right-wing leaders of his party, such as Jim Jordan Representatives and Boebert.

Money flooded the race, millions were spent trying to protect Mowers from a Leavitt push.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, the predominant Republican super PAC in the House, has spent nearly $2 million defending Mowers. Defending Main Street, a centrist Republican super PAC, spent $1.2 million with advertisements that say Leavitt “claims she’s conservative” and calls her “woke”, “immature” and “irresponsible”.
Leavitt responded to outside expenses with $285,000 of his own expenses, including on an advertisement who attacks the reapers for vote in New Hampshire and New Jersey in the 2016 primariesaccuses him of trying to “sabotage President Trump” and calls him “another swamp doormat”.
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She also tried to turn the deluge of money against her into an attack on Mowers, express yourself on Twitter that she was “officially DC’s top slot machine target” because “the establishment knows I’m the biggest threat to their hand-picked puppet Matt Mowers”.

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.

Pappas has already started to distance himself from Biden. The same University of New Hampshire poll found that 54% of New Hampshire adults disapproved of Biden’s performance, while 43% approved.

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.”

And he hit Biden’s description of Trump’s suite as “semi-fascist” days before the primary, tell reporters that Biden “must be careful not to paint with too broad a brush.”

Mowers is married to a senior CNN video producer.

CNN’s David Wright contributed to this report.

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