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Team Normal’s New Hampshire Nightmare

Republicans could have had one of the most popular governors in America flipping a Dem Senate seat. Instead, they’ve got General Don Bolduc.
August 24, 2022
Team Normal’s New Hampshire Nightmare
Brigadier General Donald C. Bolduc (Composite / Photos: GettyImages / Shutterstock)

I was feeling a little masochistic in the lead-up to Liz Cheney’s martyrdom last week so I flipped on my old buddy Steve Bannon’s War Room Pandemic podcast for a little audial self-harm, as one does.

In the segment I tuned in for, Bannon was salivating over the defeat of the McCain machine in Arizona and the coming ouster of the Cheney and Murkowski dynasties in Wyoming and Alaska (2-for-3, Steve-o). But there was a fourth legacy GOP scalp the slatternly Rasputin was preemptively claiming: the Sununus of New Hampshire, who are expected to be the capstone to a successful Ultra MAGA primary season on September 13.

The Granite State’s current governor, Chris Sununu, comes from a long line of mainline establishment Republicans. His father, John H. Sununu, was the state’s governor, chief of staff to George H.W. Bush, and a hilarious but oft-off message Mitt Romney surrogate during the 2012 campaign. Chris’s older brother, John E. Sununu, represented the Granite State in the Senate from 2002-2008, during which he was the body’s youngest member.

Mitch McConnell and the rest of “Team Normal” sensibly launched a “full court press” to try to get Chris Sununu into this year’s Senate race against incumbent Democrat Maggie Hassan. Such a courtship was logical given that Sununu is the 5th most popular governor in the country and has a winning pedigree. He was also attractive because he wouldn’t come off as scary or weird to flinty New Hampshire swing voters, having not dabbled in the conspiracies or extremism that have engulfed most of the GOP.

While you may think of New Hampshire as a reliable blue state, it’s not and it would have been a good target for Republicans. Biden only won by 5 percent in 2020 and Hassan edged out her 2016 opponent by a mere 1,000 votes —meaning Sununu would’ve been a slight favorite to flip Hassan’s seat. But it was not to be.

Governor Sununu took a pass on the race, not being particularly keen on jobs where rioters target his office if he doesn’t submit to a game show host’s autocratic delusions, leaving the Republican primary wide open.

The man who has filled that vacuum is emblematic of the “candidate quality” issues that sad turtle Mitch recently alluded to.

The frontrunner is Brigadier General Don Bolduc. He is not, like Sununu, a popular mainstream R with a track record of success; he’s an absolute loon who lost a Senate primary in 2020 and is a favorite in Bannon’s War Room where he is referred to only as “The General,” as if he were some kind of exiled Kazak communist who Bannon is demanding be released from prison.

Which happens to be exactly the profile Republican primary voters are looking for this year. As such, “The General” leads in a recent poll with 32 percent. Trailing with 16 percent is milquetoast State Senate President Chuck Morse, who endorsed Jeb Bush in the 2016 primary followed by a smattering of candidates in single digits—most notably a gentleman named Kevin Smith, a New England town manager whose campaign landing page features a video of him at the border (Mexico, not Canada).

Sununu has not yet endorsed in the race, though it is widely suspected that he supports Morse. He has recently mocked Bolduc as “not a serious candidate”—perhaps not realizing that unseriousness has been the coin of the realm in 2022 GOP primaries. Bolduc rejects Sununu’s dismissiveness and has stated on multiple occasions he believes the state’s Republican governor is a “Chinese Communist Party sympathizer.”

More meaningfully Trump has also not endorsed in the race despite the natural synergies with Bolduc. Part of the reason for this is that his man on the ground in New Hampshire, former campaign manager and self-described serial stabber Cory Lewandowski, has been trying to steer his old boss away from another sure loser towards Morse or Smith.

Why would the Lowell Impaler be concerned about Bolduc?

Well even though his top consultant, a former colleague of mine Rick Wiley, is arguing that The General has a “common sense message” with “broad appeal,” there are some good reasons to believe that Lewandowski’s reticence is well-founded.

Let’s take a penny tour through Bolduc’s track record and see his “common sense” in action.

If you are familiar at all with Don Bolduc it’s probably from the brutal on-air correction he received from Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin after he let slip a little loose talk about sending on-the-ground troops into Ukraine.

While Bolduc’s ground troop bloodlust may be a bit of an outlier on the nationalist right, the rest of his views put him in the sweet spot for the median MAGA voter, most importantly when it comes to election fraud hysteria.

According to audio of a recent campaign event, Bolduc has ominously claimed our current electoral process allows for a “corrupt system of ballot stuffing” that “circumvents the machine.”

Corrupt system of ballot stuffing and machines. Machines in particular. So what they’re organizing and they’re being pretty effective about it . . . they’re also asking people to vote somebody in for dog catcher. Anybody. You know if it’s down there and it’s listed as a position, moderator. Write anyone in for anything . . . I’m just using dog catcher as an example. Forces a hand count immediately when there’s a write-in. So it circumvents the machine . . .

Big if true.

This is not Bolduc’s only foray into election conspiracies. He signed an insane letter in May of 2021 that questioned the results of the 2020 election and implored a “fight for our survival like no other time since our founding in 1776.”

The General has also been a vocal anti-vaxxer suspicious of Bill Gates’ plan to implant people with tracking microchips. He was specifically concerned that Gates and the government were planning a vaccine registry, which he heroically vowed to conscientiously object to. According to The General, the only chip going inside him would be a woke globalist corporate product famous for its all natural ingredients—the “Dorito.” Bolduc’s microchip worries earned him a rebuke from a group of New Hampshire doctors who warned that his rhetoric could result in fewer people taking a life-saving vaccine. The General refused to bow to those elitist cucks with their “science” and epidemiology and doctorates of medicine. Because while most Granite Staters emphasize the “Live Free” portion of the state’s motto, Bolduc demands that respect be paid to the “Or Die” bit.

Unlike some of his anti-vax co-conspirators, Bolduc did not believe that COVID was fake news. On Twitter he shared the view that it had been purposefully created by China to “kill” Americans and destabilize the West. This is the tension of the Alex Jones Proposition: If COVID is a Chinese bioweapon, then why shouldn’t Americans get vaccinated to protect themselves from it?

Best not to think about that too hard.

The General has other concerns: That his nemesis Bill Gates and George Soros also funded the “militant wing” of Black Lives Matter, which he deems a domestic terrorist organization. By contrast Bolduc is of the opinion that Confederate statues should be preserved in America because they are “a symbol of hope, a symbol of inspiration, a symbol of moving forward.” This is a strange position for a New Hampshire Yankee, but his gray shirt fans seem to concur!

Being such a learned individual, you won’t be surprised that Bolduc also has strong views about what our children are being taught in schools. At an event in Londonderry he argued that even private schools should be subject to government bans on the discussion of “sexuality.”

The dropping and the scores, the lowering of the standards, the teaching of ideas and concepts, it should never, ever enter a school, private, public or otherwise, about sexuality and about transgender and about social emotional learning.

Like I said: My dude isn’t really into all that “live free” stuff.

And yet, despite his enthusiasms concerning microchip registries, dastardly voting machines, federal curriculum guidance, and Confederate statues none of these issues are the animating passion of Bolduc’s campaign.

Instead, he says his main goal in office would be to repeal the 17th Amendment, a real kitchen table issue if there ever was one. Presumably ending the direct election of Senators is especially important to Bolduc either (a) as part of his multifaceted commitment to tearing down American democracy; or (b) as a CYA so the voters wouldn’t have the opportunity to run his ass out on a rail should he somehow manage to bumble his way to victory in November.

Or maybe that’s a false choice. We’ll have to wait for the general election debates or The General’s next appearance on an insurrectionist podcast to find out.

In the meantime “Team Normal” has three weeks to right the ship or else Bannon will get his latest RINO scalp as the Senate Republicans leave yet another seat on the altar of their exiled toddler king.

Tim Miller

Tim Miller is The Bulwark’s writer-at-large and the author of the best-selling book Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell. He was previously political director for Republican Voters Against Trump and communications director for Jeb Bush 2016.