New Hampshire GOP Senate nominee abruptly backs off false 2020 election claims


(CNN)New Hampshire Senate candidate Don Bolduc won the Republican nomination on Tuesday after months campaigning on false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump. A little more than a day later, he attempted an about-face.

Asked Thursday on Fox News about the 2020 race, Bolduc, a retired Army brigadier general who faces Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan in November, said he’s “done a lot of research on this” and, after speaking with New Hampshire voters, was changing his position.

“I’ve come to the conclusion, and I want to be definitive on this: The election was not stolen,” Bolduc said, adding that while he still believes there was fraud, “Elections have consequences and, unfortunately, President Biden is the legitimate president of this country.”

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    The comments marked a U-turn from as recently as last month, when during a primary debate he doubled down on his past false assertions.

      “I signed a letter with 120 other generals and admirals saying Trump won the election, and damn it, I stand by [it],” Bolduc said during the mid-August debate.

        Hassan’s campaign described Bolduc’s new public stance as an unconvincing and cynical ploy.

        “Don Bolduc has spent the entire campaign touting the Big Lie, and he can’t hide from that record. He has even said that he supports overturning the results of the 2024 election if it doesn’t go his way,” Hassan campaign spokesman Kevin Donohoe said. “A word salad on Fox will not erase his record of election denial.”

          Earlier Thursday, Hassan’s campaign shared on Twitter a video clip of Bolduc’s debate remark, tweeting, “Don Bolduc is an election denier.”

          Bolduc’s campaign did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for an explanation for his reversal.

          Hassan’s seat represents a top pickup opportunity for Republicans, who are trying to erase Democrats’ slim Senate majority this fall. New Hampshire broke for now-President Joe Biden by 7 points in 2020, and many in GOP leadership believe Hassan is susceptible to a competent challenger — a view that led them to back state Senate President Chuck Morse in the primary. Morse conceded to Bolduc early Wednesday.

          Morse had been endorsed by the state’s popular GOP governor, Chris Sununu, whom Senate Republicans had tried — and failed — to recruit against Hassan. Leading GOP establishment figures also backed Morse, worried that Bold

          uc’s rhetoric over the 2020 election, his calls to repeal the direct election of senators as required by the 17th Amendment, and his criticism of the FBI after the search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence would doom him to defeat in a general election. Sununu during the primary called Bolduc a “conspiracy theorist-type candidate” and warned that the Republicans “would have a much harder time” flipping the seat if he was nominated.

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          At a news conference on Wednesday, Hassan offered a preview of the campaign to come, calling Bolduc “the most extreme nominee for US Senate that New Hampshire has seen in decades” and zeroing in on his ties to Trump.

          “It is interesting that Donald Trump indicated his support for Don Bolduc this morning, and again, Don Bolduc supports the election denial for 2020 — has helped spread those lies, says he supports or is open to abolishing the FBI, and says if the 2024 election doesn’t go the way he thinks it should, he would work to overturn it,” Hassan said.

          Trump did not make an endorsement in the New Hampshire GOP Senate primary. Trump congratulated Bolduc on Wednesday for his “BIG WIN in New Hampshire” in a post on the former President’s Truth Social platform. Bolduc’s campaign shared a screenshot of that post on Twitter, writing, “Strong words from President Trump. Thank you, sir!”

          Bolduc had in recent week shown some signs that he was beginning a pivot away from the false 2020 election claims that had been central to his candidacy. In an interview with New Hampshire Public Radio published on September 2, he repeatedly demurred when asked about those claims.

          Eventually, though, after the interviewer plainly stated that there was “no evidence that the 2020 election was stolen,” Bolduc tried to distance himself from that language.

          “Did I say it was stolen? I didn’t say it was stolen. I said that Granite Staters have issues, and that’s who’s important. I just want to be clear on what I’m saying,” he said.

            Bolduc, though, has long been an exponent of Trump’s lies. In an interview with the New Yorker published in October 2021, he defended his decision to sign on to the letter that said Trump was the 2020 winner and insisted that his rigged election and fraud claims were sincere.

            “I very much believe it and I think it exists, and I think it happens and it’s been happening for a long time in this country. When you try to steal the Presidency, a lot of people are going to go, ‘OK, wait a minute. What the hell’s going on here?,'” Bolduc said at the time.