At a Republican debate just before the Sept. 13 primary, Mr. Bolduc, a retired brigadier general in the Army, declared unequivocally, “I signed a letter with 120 other generals and admirals saying that Trump won the election, and, damn it, I stand by my letter.” He added for good measure, “I’m not switching horses, baby. This is it.”
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His nomination clinched, Mr. Bolduc on Sept. 15 left that horse in a ditch. “I’ve done a lot of research on this,” he said on Fox News after being shown a clip of his promise to stay the course on election denial, “and I’ve spent the past couple 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.”
When a flabbergasted Fox host, Dana Perino, pointed to Mr. Bolduc’s adamant statements before the primary, he shrugged: “You know, live and learn, right?”
General-election turns to the center are nothing new, but few would say Mr. Bolduc, a political newcomer whose authenticity was his calling card, executed his smoothly.
“Don spent the last three years hanging with primary voters, a third to a half who bought into the whole stolen-election thing, or at least thought something was fishy,” Mr. Cullen said. “When you spend that much time around people who feel that way, it’s easy to think everybody felt that way.”
Then he won the primary and realized that it just wasn’t so, Mr. Cullen added.
Mr. Bolduc’s post-primary switcheroo created a new problem: Even as he sought to court a general-election electorate, he now also needed to mend fences with his base. Supporters posted a Facebook message that they said Mr. Bolduc had sent them in which he explained his shift. Yes, he wrote with no evidence, election fraud in 2020 was rife — in mail-in ballots, voting machines and drop-box stuffing. But, he added: “Was Biden put into the presidency through a constitutional process … yes.”