CONCORD, NH — In a primary race that proved nothing is ever a sure thing in politics, Republican Charlie Bass barely eked out a win over conservative underdog Jennifer Horn early Wednesday morning, setting the stage for his matchup with liberal Democratic nominee Ann McLane Kuster in the November election.
In a three-way race with Republican Bob Giuda, Bass’s victory looked uncertain well into the night, when only a single percentage point separated him and Horn. At 12:30 a.m., about two hours after Kuster declared victory in her Democratic primary, Bass told supporters that the gap between him and Horn was growing, and he expected to win his race. At 1 a.m., the Associated Press called the race for Bass.
But in a race where Bass had long been considered a frontrunner by the national media and was running against two opponents splitting the conservative vote, to face a serious challenge from a woman who didn’t have the finances to run television ads must prove a concern for state Republicans.
While Bass did eventually secure the win, there was a point in the night when supporters were quiet and worried, and reporters started drafting stories in case of a Horn victory. Probably not how the former Congressman wanted to stage his comeback.
But when Bass did take the stage, there began to emerge glimpses of the former six-term Congressman who won kudos for his pragmatic leadership and steady, moderate approach to politics. While it’s not his style to dazzle a crowd, he seemed newly energized as he said of national Democrats, ”Madam Speaker, start packing your bags.”
Cheers from moderate Republican supporters — one of whom said Bass has always been “good old Charlie” — buoyed the candidate’s oft-repeated speech about returning to politics to fix Washington and cut government spending.
Bass spoke of making this election “Kuster’s last stand” with a conviction that wasn’t present in his earlier deliveries of the line, and marked the first stages of what will likely be a close and contested November election, in which Bass will try to paint Kuster as a radical, left-wing liberal, and Kuster will portray him as a washed-up D.C. insider.
“I couldn’t stand aside and let this district be represented by two Democrats who are so liberal they make Obama look like Glen Beck,” he said.
And with the GOP nomination called for Bass, his supporters can finally turn their efforts to the ultimate prize: a win on November 2.
Check back later today for Top 5 takeaway points from the race, and photos from the night.