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Keller @ Large: Difference between NH's Don Bolduc and Maggie Hassan is clear

BOSTON - New Hampshire Republicans have made their choice, despite the best efforts of Gov. Chris Sununu and a barrage of ads from a Democratic super PAC aimed at lifting Don Bolduc over the presumably more-electable Chuck Morse, whose closing pitch to voters appealed to their sense of who could best compete against incumbent Sen. Maggie Hassan.

That pitch may have helped make it a close race. But Bolduc, a retired Army brigadier general who relentlessly casts himself as a "fighter," prevailed. Now the question is, whose message will sell best with the wider electorate?

Bolduc's claim that "America, the greatest country in the world, is under attack from within. Career politicians have driven our country into a ditch." Or the incumbent's rebuttal: "He would be a yes vote for a national abortion ban. He says he wants to eliminate Social Security, put a trillion dollars worth of cuts on Medicare."

One thing's for sure, the contrast is not a vague one.

Bolduc's rhetoric is at times apocalyptic. "Battle-tested and ready, he will lead our country out of the darkness and restore American strength," says the voiceover in one campaign video.

But in an interview with WBZ-TV, Hassan said, "This job requires that you listen to people, that you work together, that you stand for your principles, and that you push back against corporate special interests."

Hassan "knows the sweet spot in the New Hampshire electorate is someone who is fiscally moderate-to-conservative but socially rather liberal," says political science Prof. Dante Scala of the University of New Hampshire. But if the economic climate gets worse? "Then Bolduc's outsider message might just resonate among an electorate that's in a mood to fire the incumbent.

So perhaps the biggest challenge for the Bolduc campaign now is uniting his divided party by proving he can appeal to voters beyond his hard right-wing base. That might require clever pivoting that Bolduc has shown no sign of embracing.

But in the ads she's been running all year establishing distance from the Biden administration and stressing her bipartisanship, you can see how Hassan is concerned about the possibility of getting swamped by a red wave.

Stay tuned.

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