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The longtime business owner and Republican state lawmaker is scheduled to declare his candidacy at an outdoor kickoff event at his florist, nursery and garden center in southern New Hampshire on Saturday morning, just a major nor’easter smashes into New England.
“I’ve been plowing for over 30 years, and I guess I’ll be plowing again tomorrow morning to make sure this event goes off,” Morse told Fox News on the eve of his campaign launch. “I’ve worked hard my whole life fighting snowstorms, and we’ll do that the same way we’ll fight for this U.S. Senate seat.”
Morse becomes the second GOP contender to jump into the race in the past week, following former Londonderry, New Hampshire town manager Kevin Smith. They join retired U.S. Army Gen. Don Bolduc, an Afghanistan war veteran who until this month was the only declared major Republican candidate in the race. All three are bidding for the GOP nomination in the hopes of challenging Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan in a potentially crucial showdown in November’s general election.
Senate Republicans need a net gain of just one seat in the midterms to win back the majority in the chamber that they lost a year ago, when they were swept in the Jan. 5, 2021, twin runoff elections in Georgia.
While the GOP is defending 20 of the 34 seats up for grabs this year, including five open seats, they view four Democratic senators in extremely competitive general election battleground states as very vulnerable. And due to her lackluster polling position over the past year, Hassan is one of the four.
But the GOP was dealt a major setback in early November when popular New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, whom Senate Republicans viewed as arguably their top 2022 recruit prospect, announced that he would run for reelection rather than challenge Hassan, his predecessor as governor.
Sununu’s decision instantly took what would have been one of the most competitive, combative and consequential Senate races in the 2022 midterm elections and moved it, at least temporarily, from the A-list to the B-list.
Morse touted that serving as a U.S. senator is “a position that I am quite qualified for.”
Pointing to his years of experience as a key architect of the Granite State’s budgets, Morse emphasized that “we’ve proven that our track record in New Hampshire of lowering taxes and getting out of businesses is a blueprint that we should take to Washington and that’s what I intend to do.”
Morse, who was involved in rough negotiations with then-Gov. Hassan during a 2015 budget stalemate, targeted the senator and fellow Democratic lawmakers in Washington, arguing that “their policies with energy and excessive spending are what’s causing this country to leave them.”
Taking aim at what he said was a lack of fiscal discipline in the nation’s capital, Morse charged that “Hassan has done nothing about it.”
Hassan’s team begged to differ, with campaign spokesperson Kevin Donohoe telling Fox News “Senator Hassan has a long record of cutting taxes for New Hampshire small businesses and families — and working to cut government waste.”
Morse’s formal entry into the Senate race comes one week after Smith declared his candidacy at a campaign launch event in his hometown of Londonderry.
Smith, who also chaired the development authority at the Pease Tradeport, which was converted from a former U.S. Air Force base, is making his second statewide run, after an unsuccessful bid for the 2012 GOP gubernatorial nomination.
“Washington is failing us. And we need new leaders and imbued with common sense and decency and compassion to replace the distant, disinterested and dishonest career politicians in Washington, D.C.,” Smith said during his campaign launch in a speech that painted him as an outsider.
Bolduc has been waging an “outsider” campaign for the Senate since launching his second straight bid nearly 15 months ago. He unsuccessfully ran for the 2020 nomination.
He made news this past week, hiring veteran GOP consultant Rick Wiley, a former Republican National Committee political director who also served as campaign manager then Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s 2016 presidential bid.
In a strategy note, Wiley emphasized that the midterms are shaping up to be “an outsider election” because “voters are fed up with politicians and don’t trust them.”
Bolduc isn’t the only contender with an experienced operative advising their campaign. Longtime Republican strategist David Carney, a veteran of numerous Republican presidential and statewide campaigns over the years, signed on as Morse’s general consultant. And longtime New Hampshire based Republican consultant Michael Dennehy, who’s worked on a number of GOP presidential and statewide campaigns, is helping to guide Smith’s Senate bid.
All three candidates can use the assistance, as a Saint Anselm College Survey Center poll conducted earlier this month indicated that New Hampshire voters knew next to nothing about the GOP contenders.
That’s not the case with Hassan, a former state senator and two-term governor.
And regardless of which candidate wins their party’s September primary, beating Hassan in November won’t be easy, as she has a history of winning tough elections.
Hassan, as a first term governor in 2014, won re-election during another cycle that was horrendous for Democrats, and she narrowly came out on top in a blockbuster battle with then-Sen. Kelly Ayotte in 2016. And Hassan’s continuing to build a very formidable fundraising war chest.