On the trail: 2022 election ad wars already underway

  • Amplify NH, a recently formed progressive non-profit group, placed yard signs reading “End Sununu’s abortion ban” on the street leading to his house and in front of town hall in his hometown of Newfields. Paul Steinhauser—For the Monitor

For the Monitor
Published: 7/9/2021 3:10:46 PM

Democrats are starting to follow through on their vows to make Republican Gov. Chris Sununu pay a political price for signing a state budget – one that Republicans are touting as the most conservative in decades – that includes a ban on abortions after 24 weeks of gestation and mandatory ultrasounds for all women before a pregnancy is terminated.

Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund has been running a digital ad in the state for the past two weeks that ties Sununu to the abortion ban. The New Hampshire political arm of the powerful national organization that defends abortion rights told the Monitor that they’re spending six figures on their ad blitz.

The spot is likely a taste of things to come, especially if the popular governor announces later this summer or autumn that he’s launching a GOP challenge against Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, Sununu’s predecessor as governor, or runs for re-election for a fourth two-year term steering the Granite State.

New Hampshire was one of seven states that had no gestational limit on abortion procedures.

Veteran Republican state Sen. Sharon Carson argued during the final debate over the budget that “it's time that we stop being extreme and join 43 other states in deciding that there needs to be a limit.”

But the language in the budget makes no exception for rape or incest, or for fetal viability. And there are criminal and civil penalties – including prison sentences – for health care providers who conduct abortions after 24 weeks.

The New Hampshire Democratic Party’s pledged “over the coming weeks and months” to “aggressively hold Sununu accountable” over his signing of the budget.

Planned Parenthood NH Action Fund vice president Kayla Montgomery vowed to “continue to hold Governor Sununu and every politician who supported this budget accountable for taking away Granite Staters’ health care and rights.”

It’s not just ads: Amplify NH, a recently formed progressive non-profit group, put a mobile billboard in front of the State House hours before the budget votes, urging Granite Staters to call the governor’s office to “Stop Sununu’s abortion ban.”

Last week they placed yard signs reading “End Sununu’s abortion ban” on the street leading to his house and in front of town hall in his hometown of Newfields.

Explaining his position this week in an interview with the NH Journal, Sununu said his views are in line with Granite Staters. 

“There is 20% [of the people] on both sides where abortion is the only issue,” Sununu said. “Well, I’m kind of in that 60% of everybody else. I always find there’s always a middle ground. So I’m pro-choice, but like most people, I’ve never supported the idea of late-term abortion.”

And in an interesting comment, he added “I think we can make some fixes here, and understand the cost provisions there, and certain waivers or stipulations. I think that’s all open for discussion.”

National Republicans target Hassan

While it’s still not a done deal that Sununu will launch a Senate campaign, Hassan’s re-election effort is well underway – and so are ads being run in New Hampshire by national GOP groups that target the Democratic senator.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), the campaign arm of the Senate GOP, says it spending six figures to run a TV ad that went up two weeks ago in New Hampshire that targets Hassan over her vote in support of the Democrats sweeping election and campaign finance reform measure, which is bitterly opposed by Republicans.

“Senator Maggie Hassan supports this Washington waste plan,” the narrator says.

And One Nation, a pro-Senate GOP group allied with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, aired with TV and radio ads charging that “Hassan’s pushing a bill that would undermine New Hampshire’s laws.”

The NRSC also dinged Hassan over her support of the bill in a digital ad earlier this year, and they targeted her and other Democratic senators, charging that they supported teachers unions over the safety of students amid the push to reopen schools as more and more people received their COVID vaccinations.

National Democrats praise Hassan

On the flip side – national Democratic groups are running ads thanking Hassan.

End Citizens United/Let America Vote, a progressive political action committee, last month launched an ad campaign thanking Hassan for her support for the Democrats’ election bill.

“Corporate special interests and their lobbyists have all the power,” a New Hampshire farmer says in the spot. “Maggie Hassan is fighting to change that.”

And the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the campaign arm of the Senate Democrats, earlier this year went up with ads thanking Hassan and a handful of other senators facing challenging re-elections next year for their support of President Joe Biden’s nearly $2 trillion COVID release package.

A record $130 million was dished out by the campaigns, the political parties, and outside groups in then-Gov. Hassan’s edging out of Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte in the 2016 election by just 1,017 votes. If Sununu ends up as the GOP challenger in 2022, expect an onslaught of ads and a new record to be set.

“Based on historical spending data, we’re predicting the New Hampshire Senate race to be among the top ten most expensive senate races of the cycle,” John List, vice president of AdImpact, a leading national ad tracking firm, told the Monitor. “This is due to the popularity of Gov. Sununu, a split Senate, and ever-increasing amounts of money in politics due to online fundraising and a polarized electorate.”

Crenshaw in New Hampshire

Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas, a GOP rising star, is currently on a three-day swing through New Hampshire.

"What we’re seeing right now from the Biden administration, it’s not good for American families, it’s not good for American workers, businesses, it’s not good for our border, none of it," Crenshaw said as he took aim at President Biden on Thursday night while headlining a New Hampshire Republican Party/Grafton County GOP fundraiser that was held in Concord

 "The era of putting America first is apparently over," Crenshaw, who served as a U.S. Navy SEAL officer in Afghanistan and lost an eye in combat, added.

The fundraising dinner was the first stop for Crenshaw during his trip. Also on his itinerary — he will be the special guest Friday evening at the Gold Star Family Dinner. Gold Star families consist of the spouses, children, parents, siblings or others whose loved ones died fighting during U.S. military service, and are considered a vital part of the country's military community.

On Saturday he will speak at the Swim with a Mission (SWAM) Veteran Festival at a minor league baseball stadium in Manchester, which is a day of military-themed activities for families in support of veterans.

Political pundits see 37-year-old Crenshaw as a possible contender for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, and the swing through New Hampshire will only fuel more speculation.

But Crenshaw is putting cold water on such talk.

On Thursday he told television station WMUR in New Hampshire "not anytime soon," when asked about running for president.

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