Don Bolduc explains his defeat

Last week, Maggie Hassan, the incumbent Democratic senator from New Hampshire, defeated her Republican opponent, Don Bolduc, a retired general and a donald trump Support. Known during his military career for focusing on the mental health of his soldiers, Bolduc took a right turn to curry favor with Trump — a strategy that helped him triumph in the GOP primary. When he and I last spoke, in 2021, he spoke at length about his loyalty to Trump and his belief that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. Later in the campaign, Bolduc disavowed his electoral denial, before implying that he only did so to win over New Hampshire’s electorate, which is relatively moderate. Hassan ended up beating him by a margin of nine points.

Afterwards, I called Bolduc to see if he wanted to talk again. He didn’t answer, but on Monday he called me back. (When I picked up the phone, he asked who he was talking to.) Our conversation, edited for length and clarity, is below. In it, we discuss his frustrations with Trump, how election denial sparked his campaign, and why he still thinks both sides are to blame for Jan. 6.

OK, I’m recording now.

I gave in and accepted the results of the election, as I had said. I’m in a period of reflection on the election, looking at what I think we did right and what I think we did wrong. So it was a long process. We entered election day with national and state polls showing us a point or two ahead. We were tied. And we lost by nine points. [The FiveThirtyEight polling average had Hassan leading Bolduc by slightly more than two points on Election Day.] There were a lot of same-day voter registrations, which is allowed in New Hampshire. But Hassan spent thirty-six million dollars. I spent less than two million dollars. She had the full support of the Democratic Party. I didn’t have the full support of the Republican Party. A little difference there.

Can you explain why you didn’t have the full support of the Republicans?

It’s not a question you can ask me. That’s a question you have to ask them. I was a candidate who ran on our party platform – you know, American values. I believe that Republican and Democratic career politicians in Washington, DC are part of the problem, and I was going to go there not to support any particular individual or party, but to support Americans and the Granite Staters. Maybe that was the big difference, right? I was not going there to play partisan politics with special interests and lobbyists – as if nothing had happened. Maybe it was in their calculation.

In other words, maybe the Republicans feared you?

There were a lot of them—well, not a lot of them, but I think there was this fear that I wasn’t going to go over there and play ball like they wanted. It’s not a guess, it’s a fact. I wouldn’t play ball. We have economic prosperity, spending and lack of security issues in this country, and it’s on both sides of the aisle. I yearn for a time when Republicans and Democrats could come together on these core issues, regardless of where they stand on social issues. The days of JFK. Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill. And Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton, to the extent that they did.

You said I should ask the people of Washington why they didn’t support you more. [In October, the super PAC aligned with Mitch McConnell cancelled a planned ad buy of nearly six million dollars in New Hampshire to spend on other races.] I have the impression that they would say: “Don Bolduc is a bit crazy, he supported election denial and he had no chance of winning.

It is absolutely absurd. Like everyone else, I went through a learning process on all of this and came out of it not as a stolen election but as an election with irregularities and fraud, like many other people on both sides from the driveway. I am not an election denier. I respected the results of this election, even though there was a lot of pressure on me not to. The people of New Hampshire spoke, and I conceded. This is how we will proceed.

Yes, you said on a podcast called “The Mel K Show,” which is aligned with the QAnon movement, “The narrative that the election was stolen – it’s not flying here in New Hampshire, for some reason What flies is that there has been significant fraud and it needs to be fixed.

Yes that’s right. You know, Granite Staters have some issues. And that should be handled by the state legislature, not the federal government. Senator Hassan wanted to federalize the elections. I don’t understand why she gets a bye in the 2016 election when she watched Hillary Clinton win because she got the popular vote. [Hassan has advocated for eliminating the electoral college and electing the President by popular vote.] But Don Bolduc…

I’m not aware of his comments on 2016 but I guess the reason Hassan got more than one pass is because Hillary Clinton supporters weren’t gathered in a crowd to attack the Capitol. That would just be my guess.

Yeah, and if you know my position on that, my position was, “Hey, I blame the leaders. I blame Trump. I blame Kevin McCarthy and Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell for not doing the right thing and creating a divisive dialogue that resulted.

I don’t know what that means.

We could all see that something bad was going to happen, so why not have the National Guard there? Why not do all these things to protect people? And then the whole narrative on both sides that surrounded the whole thing. . .

That wouldn’t have happened with Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill, would it?

Certainly not! This would never have happened, sir!

In your commentary on that podcast, which I just quoted, you imply that the evolution of your views on the 2020 election was to win over New Hampshire voters. What if it’s just you and me sitting around having a beer? What do you honestly think of 2020?

My honest thought? You know, in retrospect, Joe Biden won. He is the legitimate President of the United States. President Trump should have accepted that. That shouldn’t be part of the 2022 election narrative right now. It happened. I’m concerned about New Hampshire because I’m getting elected in New Hampshire. I want free and fair elections where no one feels disenfranchised. Do you know what I’m saying?

Sure.

I am an American. I am a patriot. I like this country. I want our constitutional principles to be respected.

You were a big supporter of President Trump. Did you hear from him last week?

Well, yes, he called me a few times. I haven’t, you know, spoken to him directly since the election. But, remember: I didn’t ask for his endorsement in the primary or the general election. He gave it to me, but I didn’t ask for it. And then he made very negative comments about me the day after the election. Look, Donald Trump is Donald Trump, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Everyone thought I was that fat Trump guy, but I have to tell you, I don’t owe anyone. I had no outside help.