Despite losing the GOP U.S. Senate primary to businessman Corky Messner in September, retired Gen. Don Bolduc says he’s ready to return to the political battlefield, announcing Monday he’ll be running to unseat first-term incumbent Sen. Maggie Hassan.
Bolduc has formally filed his paperwork with the Federal Election Commission for a 2022 Senate bid. He’s all but certain to face a GOP primary for the opportunity to run against Hassan.
“Right after the primary, I said, ‘Listen, giving up is not in my blood,’” Bolduc told WMUR’s John DiStaso. “We did not lose [the NHGOP Senate primary] to Corky Messner. We lost to the establishment. That is not going to happen in 2022.”
As for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, Bolduc told WMUR, “I would have beaten her.”
Bolduc lost to Messner by eight points in the GOP primary. Messner lost to Shaheen by 16 points in the general election.
The retired general’s announcement comes just days after a cryptic tweet from Gov. Chris Sununu’s campaign manager Paul Collins directed at Sen. Hassan sparked a flurry of speculation.
“Hey, Senator Hassan, what is it like serving in the United States Senate these days? Asking for a friend. #NHPolitics,” the tweet read. Some saw it as a sign Sununu is planning a run of his own in 2022. Others speculated that it was a message to other potential NHGOP rivals for the US Senate nomination to hold off.
Given Joe Biden’s narrow victory in the national presidential election and the divisions between the progressive and traditional liberal wings of the Democratic Party, Republicans have high hopes for an anti-incumbent midterm in 2022. They’re anticipating a first-term midterm for Biden similar to the #BlueWave in Trump’s first midterm and the Tea Party revolution in 2010. As a result, many New Hampshire Republicans reportedly considering a run against Hassan in a potentially pro-GOP year.
Among the GOP names commonly mentioned are former U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte, former NH-01 candidate Eddie Edwards, businessman Jay Lucas and the aforementioned Corky Messner. But the consensus among Granite State Republicans is that if Sununu enters the race, the primary is over before it starts.
Bolduc doesn’t agree, telling DiStaso that Sununu’s entering the race “makes no difference in my plans. It is up to the people of New Hampshire who they want as a U.S. senator and that’s the way we need to keep it.”
The state Republican Party rejected Bolduc’s complaint that he was running against the party establishment in the September primary. “We were never against you and do not take sides in open party primaries,” the NHGOP told Bolduc via Twitter. “The party made great strides in 2020 and we need to continue to stand united- we look forward to working with our eventual 2022 U.S. Senate Nominee.”
Not surprisingly New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley’s reaction was negative. “Less than a week after Election Day, the next ugly Republican primary for U.S. Senate has already begun with the entrance of Don Bolduc,” Buckley said in a statement, adding that Bolduc is “extreme and out-of-touch.”
But Buckley’s response wasn’t nearly as negative as NHGOP insiders and political pros.
“He’s crazier than I thought,” one GOP strategist told NHJournal.
Another longtime GOP figure told NHJournal: “On the surface [Bolduc] seems likable. Then it becomes clear he gives the orders, doesn’t take advice, and will only do things the way he wants to do them. Even in conversations with voters. Generals don’t belong in politics. He doesn’t have the wherewithal to run an effective campaign with smart operatives.”
And yet another dismissed Bolduc’s previous campaign efforts as “amateur hour.”
“This is just more of the same,” the Republican source said.