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Even When Trump Endorses No One, G.O.P. Voters Go Far to the Right

Republican voters on Tuesday cast their final verdict on the battle between Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell for control of the party: They’re with Trump.

In this week’s New Hampshire primaries, GOP voters picked three far-right candidates who have suggested unfounded theories about problems with the 2020 results — a sign that the Republican Party’s vote-fraud fever hasn’t abated, if it ever will.

First, in the Senate race against Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan, Granite State Republicans chose Don Bolduc over Chuck Morse, a state legislator who had the financial and political backing of the local establishment and that of Senator McConnell, the minority leader, and his wealthy allies.

Bolduc, a decorated retired army general who has eagerly promoted Trump’s conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential results, campaigned as a political outsider who criticized both sides. He played out his military experience, including a stint fighting in Afghanistan as a “horse soldier” after the September 11 attacks.

Morse struggled to navigate the changing waters of the Republican primary electorate, which, even in famously independent New Hampshire, has shifted sharply to the right in recent years.

At one point, Morse embraced the “MAGA Republican” label after President Biden’s speech denounced the Trump wing of the party as a threat to democracy. At the same time, Morse sought support from McConnell and Governor Chris Sununu, a moderate who labeled Bolduc a “conspiracy theory extremist.”

Bolduc immediately hit back at Sununu, accusing him of sympathizing with the Chinese Communist Party and “doing business with Saudi Arabian companies that give money to terrorists”.

Bolduc, who at the end of last year loudly declared a lack of interest in challenging Hassan, called Sununu a “globalist man of world government” — an insult popularized by Stephen Bannon, the recently indicted former Trump aide who often promotes aggressive anti-government language. on his podcast, “War Room: Pandemic.”

Nevertheless, on the Saturday before Election Day, Sununu said of Bolduc: “I support whoever the nominee is and support him. Of course I will, without a doubt.”

Sununu won his primary handily. But he’s widely believed to have presidential aspirations, and the results of New Hampshire’s other contests this week will inevitably raise questions about that. Namely: Are Republican voters really looking for someone in the moderate form he’s projecting?

In a key House primary, voters backed Karoline Leavitt, a 25-year-old former Trump White House press aide, over Matt Mowers, who served as a political nominee in Trump’s State Department and later a board member of the International Republican Party. Institute, a pillar of the GOP Leavitt’s squeaky internationalist wing, has repeatedly pushed the fiction that Trump was robbed in 2020.

And in New Hampshire’s other House district, another right-wing candidate, Robert Burns, narrowly beat George Hansel, the moderate mayor of Keene. Burns said during the campaign that he accepted Biden’s win in 2020 but believed that “a ton” of other elections had been stolen that year.

Notably, Trump did not support a candidate in any of the Senate or House games in New Hampshire.

Tuesday’s results recall a revealing moment in the Pennsylvania Senate primaries, when Kathy Barnette, an insurgent candidate seeking the mantle of Trump, said during a debate, “MAGA does not belong to President Trump.”

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“Our values ​​have never, ever shifted to President Trump’s values,” she said. “It was President Trump who changed and joined our values.”

Like Bolduc, Barnette had the support of Bannon and other celebrities from the Trump world with huge online followings. In her Senate race, Trump had Dr. Mehmet Oz, the television celebrity, endorsed David McCormick, a former hedge fund manager who had nearly a thousand wins.

But while Barnette’s little campaign ultimately fell short, she was the one that briefly captured the imagination of Republican grassroots — the same political forces that drove the primary victory of Doug Mastriano, the far-right GOP nominee for governor in Pennsylvania.

You can see the Trump-aligned coalition imposing its will on New Hampshire’s political geography. Morse garnered votes in more populous southern parts of the state near Boston — he was about 20 percentage points ahead of Bolduc in Portsmouth, for example — while losing or barely beating his rival in rural areas and cities further up the state.

Before the coup, Bolduc even defeated Morse in the state senator’s own district, which includes the towns of Salem and Pelham.

“Donald Trump still has a stranglehold on Republican primary voters, and Governor Sununu’s popularity is not transferable,” said Joe Caiazzo, who led presidential campaigns in New Hampshire for Senator Bernie Sanders.

He added, “This is a sign that deniers will play a huge role in the 2024 Republican presidential primaries.”

  • Mike Lindell, the director of MyPillow and prominent promoter of conspiracy theories for the 2020 election, had his cell phone seized by federal agents at a Hardee’s restaurant in Minnesota — a clear sign that the Department of Justice is showing interest in a state lawsuit against a accused Colorado County clerk has stepped up to tampering with voting machines, write Charles Homans, Ken Bensinger, Alexandra Berzon and Alan Feuer.

  • John Durham, the former US attorney appointed by the Justice Department in 2019 to investigate the origins of the 2016 investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, appears to be wrapping up his three-year investigation with little fanfare, Katie Benner, Adam Goldman and Charlie Savage report.

  • For more than a decade, Catherine Engelbrecht, a Texas small business owner turned election fraud crusader, has been sowing doubts about ballots and voting. Her patience has paid off and now she seizes the moment, Cecilia Kang writes in a deeply reported profile.

  • Under the new climate and tax law, the federal government will use hundreds of millions of acres more acres for offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico over the next decade, even if it invests $370 billion to move the country away from fossil fuels, writes Lisa Friedman. .

Thank you for reading On Politics and for being a subscriber to The New York Times. — Blake

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