Heart of the Primaries 2022, Republicans-Issue 38

September 8, 2022

In this issue: Rick Scott defends GOP Senate candidate quality, and we announce our final HOTP issue

The Heart of the Primaries final issue of the year is next week

We’ll be sending our last issue of 2022’s The Heart of the Primaries next Thursday. We’ll include results from the final battleground primaries of the year and a roundup of some of the major themes we’ve seen playing out across primaries. 

Also, we’re excited to announce our The Heart of the Primaries reader survey, which we’ll include in next week’s issue. We’d love to hear your feedback on the newsletter!

Massachusetts primary highlight

Governor: Geoff Diehl defeated Chris Doughty on Tuesday. As of Wednesday morning, Diehl led 56%-44%. Diehl was a state representative from 2011 to 2019.

Politico Massachusetts Playbook‘s Lisa Kashinsky wrote:

It’s Maura Healey versus Geoff Diehl in a governor’s race that will be a referendum on former President Donald Trump’s legacy and rhetoric in a historically anti-Trump state.

Trump-backed Diehl clinched the Republican nomination over more moderate political newcomer Chris Doughty, setting up a November clash between the conservative former state representative and the two-term attorney general who burnished her profile by repeatedly suing the Trump administration.

Republicans will “bring Trumpism to Massachusetts,” Healey declared in her victory speech, delivered before the GOP primary was called. She painted her Republican rival as someone who will “oppose abortion rights” — Diehl says he’s “pro-life” — and is generally “out of touch with the values we stand for.”

Diehl, in turn, cast Healey as “the people’s worst nightmare” in his speech. “We are going to be redefining politics as usual here in Massachusetts. For the first time in our state’s history, we are going to run a campaign focused specifically on we the people, our freedoms, our rights and our prosperity.”

State legislative incumbents defeated

These figures were current as of Wednesday morning. Click here for more information on defeated incumbents.

No state legislative incumbents lost in Massachusetts’ primaries on Sept. 6, but that may change: There are eight races featuring incumbents—seven Democrats and one Republican—that remain uncalled.

Across the 43 states that have held statewide primaries so far, 205 incumbents, 4.7% of those running for re-election, have lost, continuing an elevated rate of incumbent primary defeats compared to recent election cycles.

Of the 43 states that have held primaries so far, 11 have Democratic trifectas, 21 have Republican trifectas, and 11 have divided governments. Across these 43 states, there are 5,679 seats up for election, 90% of the nationwide total.

Satellite spending and polling roundup in NH battleground races

Here’s a roundup of the latest satellite spending and polling ahead of New Hampshire’s congressional primaries on Sept. 13.

In the Senate primary, two satellite groups placed ad buys totaling more than $10 million combined in recent weeks. 

White Mountain PAC is spending more than $4 million on ads supporting state Senate President Chuck Morse, who has trailed Don Bolduc in polls. The Democratic group Senate Majority PAC is spending $6 million on ads opposing Morse. The Washington Post‘s Azi Paybarah said the PAC is trying to boost Bolduc and that its involvement is “the latest example of Democrats spending money to boost far-right candidates in Republican primaries in the belief they will be easier to defeat in November.”

A recent University of New Hampshire (UNH) poll showed Bolduc leading Morse 43% to 22%, with 20% undecided. The poll’s margin of error (MOE) was +/- 3.3 percentage points.

Sen. Maggie Hassan (D) is running for re-election. Hassan defeated Kelly Ayotte (R) 48.0% to 47.9% in 2016. 

The 1st Congressional District primary has seen more than $2 million in satellite spending. The Congressional Leadership Fund spent more than $800,000 supporting 2020 GOP nominee  Matt Mowers. The group Defending Main Street spent more than $500,000 opposing Karoline Leavitt. American Dream Federal Action spent $300,000 supporting Mowers, and Truth & Courage PAC spent $200,000 supporting Leavitt.

In UNH’s 1st District poll, Mowers and Leavitt were essentially tied 26% to 24%. Gail Huff Brown was next with 16%, and 26% were undecided. The MOE was +/- 4.8 percentage points. 

Incumbent Chris Pappas is unopposed in the Democratic primary.

In the 2nd District, American Liberty Action PAC is spending almost $500,000 supporting Keene Mayor George Hansel. The PAC Democrats Serve spent $100,000 on an ad saying Hillsborough County Treasurer Robert Burns “follows the Trump playbook on immigration, the border and guns.” 

Politico‘s Ally Mutnick said the Democratic group is trying to “elevat[e] a far-right candidate over a moderate backed by GOP Gov. Chris Sununu.” Sununu endorsed Hansel. One of the major issues in the race is abortion. Burns calls himself pro-life, while Hansel says he’s pro-choice.

In UNH’s 2nd District poll, Burns had 32% to Hansel’s 18%. Lily Tang Williams had 10%, and 37% were undecided. The MOE was +/- 4.5 percentage points. 

Incumbent Annie Kuster is unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Race ratings and electoral history suggest competitive Senate and House general elections in New Hampshire this year.

NRSC Chair Rick Scott criticizes Republicans who criticize GOP Senate candidates

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Examiner telling fellow Republicans to stop saying the party’s Senate nominees aren’t good candidates. 

Scott said, “many of the very people responsible for losing the Senate last cycle are now trying to stop us from winning the majority this time by trash-talking our Republican candidates.” Scott did not name anyone in particular but said, “Giving anonymous quotes to help the Washington Post or the New York Times write stories trashing Republicans is the same as working with the Democratic National Committee.” 

Scott further said that “when you complain and lament that we have ‘bad candidates,’ what you are really saying is that you have contempt for the voters who chose them.”

In an interview last week, Scott commented on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s  (R-Ky.) statement that “there’s probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate. Senate races are just different — they’re statewide, candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome.”

Scott said, “I clearly disagree with what he said. … We both agree we want to get the majority.”

On Monday, Politico changed its forecast for Senate control from Lean Republican to Toss-up. FiveThirtyEight has said Democrats are Slightly Favored to maintain control of the Senate since late July, a change from Toss-up. Both outlets mention Republican nominees, including in Arizona, Georgia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, as a factor in their ratings changes. 

Scott wrote, “We have great candidates with incredible backgrounds and ideas to make our country better. Do I wish they had more money than their Democratic opponent? Of course. But we have great candidates, chosen by the voters in their states, and our job is to help each one of them win.”

Trump endorses in 2023 Kentucky gubernatorial primary

As the 2022 primary season wraps up, we’re beginning to look ahead to 2023’s races. Former President Donald Trump (R) endorsed Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron for governor last month. 

Cameron is one of seven declared GOP candidates, alongside former Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft, David Cooper, Eric Deters, Kentucky Auditor of Public Accounts Mike Harmon, state Rep. Savannah Maddox, and Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles. Former Gov. Matt Bevin (R) has not ruled out running. When the Courier Journal asked Bevin ahead of the Kentucky Farm Bureau’s annual breakfast if he was planning to run, Bevin replied, “I am planning to eat ham.”

The date of the Republican primary isn’t set yet. The 2019 primary took place on May 21.

Gov. Andy Beshear (D) is running for re-election. Beshear defeated Bevin in 2019 49.2% to 48.8%. Republicans hold majorities in both chambers of the state legislature.

Competitiveness data: New Hampshire and Rhode Island

We’ve crunched some numbers to see how competitive New Hampshire’s and Rhode Island’s Sept. 13 primaries are compared to recent cycles. 

New Hampshire

Rhode Island