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Promising new offensive against Hassan, Bolduc finds himself on defense with some voters

Republican Senate candidate Don Bolduc talks to patrons at the Red Arrow Diner in Manchester, Oct. 3, 2022.
Josh Rogers / NHPR
Republican Senate candidate Don Bolduc talks to patrons at the Red Arrow Diner in Manchester, Oct. 3, 2022.

With election day barely a month away, U.S. Senate candidate Don Bolduc has been busy this week. The former general described Monday as the start of a counter offensive against Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan. But at times, Bolduc appeared to be playing defense — not only against Hassan’s heavy rotation of attack ads, but also against some Republican voters who pressed Bolduc about his changing positions, particularly on false claims of 2020 election fraud.

When Bolduc hit the Red Arrow Diner in Manchester Monday morning, he told any breakfast patron willing to hear him out that he was ready to take the fight to Hassan.

"We are going to put her on defense, and we are going to get her down inside a bunker,” Bolduc told one table of patrons. “And I hope she has food and water down there, because she's not going to be able to come out. We are going to isolate her down there with her record.”

Moments later, though, it was Bolduc himself, hunkering down to explain his stance on abortion. He describes himself as pro-life but would oppose any federal law limiting abortion rights, saying it’s an issue best left to individual states. The Hassan campaign has attacked Bolduc on abortion for weeks — most recently highlighting his comment that Hassan should “get over” the Dobbs decision, which eliminated the constitutional right to an abortion.

“She’s the one that needs to get over it,” Bolduc said to a couple in their 20s who hadn’t asked him about abortion. “I didn’t say that about women, I didn’t say that about abortion. But they cut that snippet and they use it against me I just wanted to clear that up.”

In fact, no voter at the Red Arrow brought up abortion with Bolduc that morning. But several said they were aware that Bolduc had staked out fresh — and sometimes conflicting — positions on a number of issues since winning the Republican primary.

“Sometimes you have to walk some stuff back, but you have to figure out what’s his true position on it,” said Doug Smith, owner of a Manchester barbershop.

Smith said Bolduc may not be perfect, but said he prefers him to Hassan — and every other member of the state congressional delegation.

“It’s not Republicans against Democrats in this country. It’s America versus Washington, because they are just doing whatever the hell they want, saying whatever they want. They just blow smoke up your ass all day long,” Smith said.

Later, in Hudson, where Bolduc campaigned at a VFW hall, the anti-Washington sentiment was pronounced.

The crowd cheered when Bolduc promised to support someone other than Mitch McConnell to lead Senate Republicans, when he said he’d be “going after” Dr. Anthony Fauci for unspecified misdeeds at the CDC, and when he promised to investigate the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice.

“Congress doesn’t have the cojones to do it. You put me down there, we’re going to grow a pair and do it,” Bolduc said to applause.

But it wasn't all cheers for Bolduc in Hudson, where a few voters challenged him for changing positions on 2020 election fraud. Last year, Bolduc joined 125 retired military officials in signing a letter suggesting the 2020 election was stolen. Last month, Bolduc said new research convinced him that the election wasn’t stolen.

“What happened to our 2020 election? I want to know how you feel about that, because that is very important to me,” said Mary Margaret Burke, who lives in Hampstead.

Bolduc told her in order to hold the president “accountable for what he has done to this nation over the last two years” the legitimacy of his presidency needs to be recognized.

“I am convinced that some of those things are impeachable offenses," Bolduc stressed.

Burke sounded persuaded.

“I’m done with these treasonous people in the White House and in our government,” Burke said. “And the biggest message we can give to Hassan, who definitely needs to go, is to just ship her out. Vote. Vote.”

“On November 8th!” Bolduc added.

Bolduc’s chances in this election will depend on how many people he can persuade to do just that — either on his own merits or by hoping voters simply find Hassan unpalatable.

Josh has worked at NHPR since 2000.
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