Before Don Bolduc won the New Hampshire Republican Senate primary on Tuesday, he made no bones about it: He thought the 2020 election had been stolen from Donald Trump.
“I signed a letter with 120 other generals and admirals saying that Donald Trump won the election and, damn it, I stand by [it],” Bolduc, a retired Army brigadier general, said at a debate last month.
Which makes what Bolduc, now the party’s nominee in the race, said on Thursday morning all the more remarkable.
“I’ve done a lot of research on this, and I’ve spent the past couple of weeks talking to Granite Staters all over the state from every party, and I have come to the conclusion – and I want to be definitive on this – the election was not stolen,” Bolduc said on Fox News. He added that while he still believes there was fraud, “elections have consequences, and, unfortunately, President Biden is the legitimate president of this country.”
Which is pretty amazing timing, right? Bolduc’s research into the 2020 election concluded just as the Republican primary was ending. And his conclusion – that Biden actually won just so happens to come as he is trying to pivot from winning over GOP primary voters – many of whom believe, as Trump does, that the 2020 election was rigged – to appealing to more centrist voters in a general election who, well, don’t.
It’s worth noting here that there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.
Other Republican candidates have tried to make similar shifts in their rhetoric around hot-button issues after winning their primaries. Arizona GOP Senate nominee Blake Masters, for instance, scrubbed his campaign website of some of the more extreme positions on abortion that he staked out during his winning primary campaign.
But none have so completely reversed themselves – and done so in such rapid fashion – on an issue as Bolduc.
That he had the gall to try it – and to do so less than 48 hours after winning a primary due in large part to his adherence to the tenets of Trumpism – speaks to the almost-impossible tight rope that Republican candidates are being forced to walk.
To win the Republican nomination in most states now requires that you at least pay lip service to Trump’s false election claims. But in so doing, you run the very real risk of alienating independents who have long since decided that the 2020 election was free and fair – and don’t have any interest in politicians who continue to fight to re-litigate it.
The Point: Bolduc’s abrupt u-turn is about as inartful as you can pivot from a core “belief” on which you based a campaign up until now. That he felt the need to do so, however, is more telling about where the Republican Party base stands vis-à-vis the country at large right now.