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The final Primary Day of 2022

Wake Up To Politics: The final Primary Day of 2022
The final Primary Day of 2022

by Gabe Fleisher

Good morning! It’s Tuesday, September 13, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 56 days away. Election Day 2024 is 784 days away.

The final Primary Day of 2022

Congrats! You’ve made it to the final contests of the 2022 primary season.

It’s been quite a marathon to get here — remember the Texas primaries all the way back in March? Or the Pennsylvania primaries in May? It’s hard to even think about everything that’s changed since then — but that’s nothing compared to the sprint that will be the next eight weeks, as the general election kicks into gear.

(Note: Technically, Louisiana won’t hold its primary until November 8, when the rest of the country has its general election, since the state holds a “jungle primary” then and a runoff in December if no candidate notches a majority. But I’m not counting that as a true primary.)

Voters in three states will be heading to the polls today: Delaware, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. But I want to focus on New Hampshire, where the most heated races of the day are taking place, particularly on the Republican side.

Taking a look at the Granite State races will allow us to recap some of the themes that have run throughout the primary season, and will once again be on display today:

➞ Electable vs. extremist: Today’s flagship race is the New Hampshire Republican Senate primary, in which state Senate president Chuck Morse and retired Army brigadier general Don Bolduc are facing off for the right to challenge Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan in November. Hassan won by just 0.14% of the vote in 2016 — in the closest Senate race of the cycle — so she is seen as beatable this time around. That is, if Republicans run the right candidate against her.

To many out-of-state Republicans, Bolduc is not the right candidate. He is a proud denier of the 2020 election results, having added his name to an open letter from former military officers questioning the legitimacy of the vote and accusing President Biden of advancing “population control actions” and leading in a “dictatorial manner.” At a primary debate last month, he suggested abolishing the FBI and repealing the 17th Amendment (which calls for direct election of senators).

And yet, Bolduc appears to be leading in the primary: he’s been ahead in every public poll that’s been taken of the race, including a University of New Hampshire survey late last month that showed Bolduc with 43% of the vote and Morse with 22%.

That would make New Hampshire the final manifestation of a dynamic that has haunted Republicans all cycle: GOP primary voters have routinely passed up candidates regarded as electable in favor of farther-right options, possibly sacrificing winnable Senate races in the process. This dynamic is already hurting Republicans in key races like Ohio and Arizona, where GOP nominees J.D. Vance and Blake Masters are floundering and in need of cash. New Hampshire could be next.

Republican Senate candidate Don Bolduc. (Twitter)

➞ GOP proxy wars: And so, once again, the Republican calvary is jumping in to rescue their establishment pick. Unlike with Vance and Masters, former President Donald Trump has not endorsed in this race — but the basic principle is the same: top Republicans are going all-out to stop a Trumpy candidate.

A new “pop-up” group, White Mountain PAC, has appeared on the scene, spending nearly $5 million to boost Morse and bash Bolduc. According to the New York Times, the group is linked to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) — much like the shadowy state-specific group Show Me Values, which parachuted into the Missouri Senate race to stop former Gov. Eric Greitens from winning the GOP nod.

Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH), a moderate who disappointed McConnell when he opted against running for the Senate seat, has also gotten involved. The governor penned an op-ed endorsing Morse this weekend and has called Bolduc a “conspiracy-theory type.” (Bolduc had labeled Sununu a “communist Chinese sympathizer” whose family business “supports terrorism.” Sununu has still said he would vote for Bolduc in November if he wins the primary.)

Greitens’ loss in Missouri (or Brian Kemp’s victory in Georgia) notwithstanding, establishment Republican leaders have generally lost this year in proxy wars against Trump or his allied candidates. Govs. Doug Ducey (R-AZ) and Larry Hogan (R-MD), moderate executives very much in Sununu’s mold, both saw their favored candidates lose against Trump’s in primaries. It is a stark sign of who has control in today’s GOP.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu. (Gage Skidmore)

➞ Intra-MAGA fights: The other race to watch today is the GOP primary in New Hampshire’s 1st congressional district, where two Trump administration alums — Karoline Leavitt and Matt Mowers — are competing to take on vulnerable Rep. Chris Pappas (D-NH) in November.

Both Leavitt and Mowers belong to a newer generation of Trump acolytes. At age 25, Leavitt would be one of the first Gen Z members of Congress and the youngest congresswoman in history. In her early 20s, she served as an assistant White House press secretary for Trump. Mowers is not much older at age 33; he worked in the Trump State Department under Secretary Mike Pompeo.

The MAGA ties of both major candidates make this a prime example of the many GOP primaries this year where candidates have tried to out-Trump each other, another signal of the Trump brand’s dominance in Republican primaries. (A third candidate, Gail Huff Brown, is the wife of former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, who was Trump’s ambassador to New Zealand.) As I put it earlier this year, the old establishment vs. conservative framing is really not operative in many races; the lanes are now Trump vs. Trumpier.

The primary race has also gained attention because groups linked to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), like McConnell in the Senate race, have entered the fray to back Mowers. As Politico notes, Leavitt has declined to say whether she’d back McCarthy for speaker if she’s elected and Republicans win the majority. Leavitt is backed by leaders of the House Freedom Caucus, some of whom have also wavered on supporting McCarthy; if he wins a slim House majority, the Californian will not be able to afford many right-wing defections in the speaker vote.

25-year-old congressional candidate Karoline Leavitt. (Twitter)

➞ Democrats play party crashers: Democrats have spent much of 2022 calling pro-Trump candidates a threat to democracy. But they’ve also been bankrolling many of those same candidates, with the risky assumption that they will make for easier opponents in the general election.

Once again, New Hampshire offers a perfect final example of this dynamic. If you’ve been reading along so far, you can probably guess which candidates Democrats have been promoting. Per the New York Times, Democrats have spent more than $3 million on an ad blitz to boost Bolduc and tag Morse as “another sleazy politician.”

Plus, in New Hampshire’s 2nd congressional district, a liberal group has put ads up promoting Bob Burns, a pro-Trump candidate who Democrats would like to be the GOP nominee against Rep. Annie Kuster (D-NH).

In total, according to the Washington Post, Democrats have spent nearly $19 million across eight states boosting far-right Republican candidates in primaries this year. The strategy has been a controversial one, with some Democrats calling it hypocritical and accusing their leaders of playing with fire by promoting Trump-backing, election-denying candidates.

It won’t be clear until November whether the strategy will pay off — or backfire.

What else you should know

August’s inflation report came out this morning — and it was worse news than economists were expected. As CNBC put it, “rising shelter and food costs offset a drop in gas prices,” leading the consumer price index (CPI) to increase 0.1% since last month and 8.3% over the last year.

Core CPI, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, also jumped: 0.6% from last month and 6.3% compared to last year. The report is not good news for Democrats, who had hoped falling gas prices would translate to lower inflation overall.

The Justice Department is stepping up its investigation of former President Donald Trump’s fundraising tactics after the 2020 election and efforts by his allies to put together fake elector slates in states he had lost. Per the New York Times, the DOJ has issued about 40 subpoenas to Trump allies in recent days and seized the phones of two of his top advisers.

According to CNN, subpoena targets include Trump’s 2020 campaign manager Bill Stepien and his longtime social media guru Dan Scavino.

  • Context: These new moves suggest that the DOJ does not view its unwritten “60-day rule” as preventing the agency from continuing its investigation into Trump even as the 2022 elections approach. If anything, the probe appears to be expanding significantly...

Monday also brought developments in the DOJ’s other ongoing investigation of the former president: the probe into his handling of classified documents after leaving office. Prosecutors filed court papers signaling they would accept one of Trump’s proposed “special master” candidates — Reagan-appointed federal judge Raymond Dearie — to lead a court-ordered review of the documents seized by the FBI in its Mar-a-Lago raid.

Trump’s lawyers rejected both of the DOJ’s suggestions. It is now up to Judge Aileen Cannon to decide whether Dearie will get the gig; she also still has to respond to the DOJ’s request that she reverse her order putting the DOJ investigation on hold during the special master review.

Ukraine is continuing to make gains, regaining even more territory Monday in the Kharkiv region alongside its northeastern border with Russia. Meanwhile, Russia continued its retreat from that part of the country, with many soldiers leaving rifles or being captured as prisoners of war in the process.

Western officials reportedly view the new Ukrainian counteroffensive as a “potential turning point” in the war. Kyiv has taken the opportunity to ask for even stronger weapons systems from U.S., arguing that the recent string of gains prove American aid is working.

A map of territory controlled by Ukraine and Russia. The ground recently recaptured by Ukraine is by Kharkiv, in light yellow. (Ukraine War Mapper)

Today at a glance

All times Eastern. Click on an event’s time to watch it.

President Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing (9 am) and host an event on the South Lawn (3 pm) celebrating the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, the Democratic climate change, health care, and tax package.

  • Context: The package was signed into law last month, but the Washington Post reported that this celebration was pushed until now because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) — feeling that the White House has not given House members enough credit — insisted that it be held after her chamber returned from August recess.

Vice President Harris will also deliver remarks at the Inflation Reduction Act event (3 pm).

First Lady Biden and Second Gentleman Emhoff will attend the Inflation Reduction Act event (3 pm). Plus, the First Lady will deliver remarks at the “Summit for America’s Youth” being hosted by Boys & Girls Clubs of America in Washington, DC (5 pm).

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will hold her daily press briefing (1:35 pm).

The Senate will convene (10 am) and hold two votes on judicial nominations (11:30am): confirming Arianna Freeman to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Third Circuit and advancing Lara Montecalvo to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the First Circuit.

The House will convene (2 pm) after more than a month of recess and vote throughout the day on 18 pieces of legislation, including a Senate-passed bill eliminating the statute of limitations for child sex abuse crimes, a bill to streamline the process for veterans to claim VA benefits, and a measure allowing the use of drones for inspecting and repairing infrastructure projects.

The House is also slated to adopt a “bereavement resolution” in memory of Queen Elizabeth II; the measure will state that when the chamber adjourns for the day, it will be doing so in her honor.

  • Context: The House did the same thing upon the deaths of King George VI in 1952, King George V in 1936, King Edward VII in 1910, and Queen Victoria in 1901. Previous generations of American lawmakers, of course, adopted very different legislation concerning British monarchs.

Congressional committee hearings will include a Senate Judiciary hearing with Twitter whistleblower Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, the company’s former head of security (10 am).

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will hold a ceremony (6:50 pm) to swear in three new House members who won special elections during the summer recess: Reps.-elect Mary Petolta (D-AK), Pat Ryan (D-NY), and Joe Sempolinski (R-NY).

  • Context: With these three new additions — each of whom will serve until the end of the 117th Congress in January — the balance of power in the House will stand at 221 Democrats, 212 Republicans. Petolta and Ryan are both running in November to win full terms; Sempolinski is not.

The Supreme Court is out until September 28.

Before I go...

Here’s something uplifting: Sheryl Lee Ralph’s acceptance speech at last night’s Emmy Awards.

Ralph won Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, for her role as Mrs. Howard in ABC’s “Abbott Elementary.” It was her first Emmy after a career that dates back to the 1970s; she was the first Black woman in 35 years to win her specific award.

Instead of a speech, Ralph opted to sing her acceptance. “I am an endangered species,” she sang, using the lyrics of Diana Reeves, “but I sing no victim’s song. I am a woman, I am an artist, and I know where my voice belongs.”

She followed it up with this message: “To anyone who has ever, ever had a dream and thought your dream wasn’t, wouldn’t, couldn’t come true, I am here to tell you that this is what believing looks like. This is what striving looks like. And don’t you ever, ever give up on you.”

Watch it below.

And after you watch it, you should really watch “Abbott Elementary,” which is funny, sweet, and a great feel-good show. (I was also happy that “Ted Lasso” and “Successon,” two of my other favorite shows, raked in the awards last night.)

That’s it for today. If you enjoy Wake Up To Politics, it’s always appreciated if you donate to support the newsletter or buy some merch. Or if you tell your friends and family to sign up at wakeuptopolitics.com.

If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to email me: my inbox is always open.

Thanks for waking up to politics! Have a great day.

— Gabe