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Lying about 2020 fraud was just ‘a political game’ to one Republican

Don Bolduc is a patrolman on the police force of Pittsfield, N.H., population 4,100. But this is not the job he had hoped to be doing in February 2024.

In September 2022, he won the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in New Hampshire, earning the right to face off against Sen. Maggie Hassan (D) in November. He lost by a wider margin than polls had suggested, hence his unexpected new career in law enforcement.

The Concord Monitor checked in on him last week. The conversation focused mostly on Bolduc’s unusual employment trajectory but also explored a bit of his 2022 ambitions. And it was in that part of the conversation that Bolduc offered an important insight.

When he was running in 2022, Bolduc gained national attention for his inconsistent approach to a key issue: whether Donald Trump legitimately won the 2020 election.

In August, he told a cheering audience of Republican primary voters that “Trump won the election.” In September, after winning that primary, he went on cable news to say that “President Biden is the legitimate president of this country” and that “the election was not stolen.”

Then he flipped back the other way. In a general election debate in October, Bolduc suggested that there was, in fact, rampant fraud in his state.

“We need to make sure that school buses loaded with people at the polls don’t come in and vote,” he said. Some in the audience chuckled. “You can laugh about it,” he added, “but people in New Hampshire aren’t laughing about it.”

Pressed on the claim by the moderator — since it’s an old, unfounded assertion — Bolduc insisted that this is what he had been hearing and, therefore, needed to be addressed.

That was Candidate Bolduc. Speaking to the Monitor this week, Officer Bolduc offered a slightly different perspective.

“I do believe there was fraud,” Bolduc told the reporter. “That’s something that can’t be disputed, but at the end of the day, I played a political game, right? So then I decided no more political games. I’m going to say what I honestly believe, and that is the election wasn’t stolen.”

In fact, it cannot be disputed that there was fraud. There have been dozens of people arrested around the country for having violated voting laws. A handful were arrested in New Hampshire, too. But this in no way proves or even suggests that the election was “stolen” — as Trump has so often claimed and as any Republican seeking his party’s nomination in 2022 might have been tempted to claim.

As Bolduc was. He “played a political game,” elevating an assertion he didn’t believe.

We understand that such things happen with regularity. Candidates make claims that they believe will appeal to voters rather than ones they believe or are ready to defend. The divergence between assertion and belief can be wide or narrow, the presentation nuanced or reckless. But it’s politics.

The difference here is that the “political game” Bolduc felt he should play was so dangerous. It was demonstrably dangerous by the point at which Bolduc was espousing it, having served as the basis for the violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Polling has repeatedly shown that most Republicans think the results of the 2020 election weren’t legitimate. In August, CNN-SSRS polling found that 4 in 10 Republicans believed there was solid evidence the election wasn’t legitimate, which isn’t the case.

You can see how this is self-reinforcing. The Republican base believes fervently that something was amiss in 2020 because Republican politicians and officials repeat the claim that something was amiss. They repeat that claim because they are worried that the Republican base will punish them if they don’t adhere to it. It’s less a political game than a doom spiral.

Bolduc had embraced other false right-wing rhetoric on the campaign trail, such as the idea that schoolchildren were “identifying” as cats and demanding litter boxes. But none was as central to Republican politics as claims about the election being stolen.

In the end, Bolduc only barely won the Senate primary, edging out state senate president Chuck Morse. Morse was endorsed by Gov. Chris Sununu and other established Republican figures, but in 2022 that was playing an older, less relevant type of political game. Bolduc got Trump’s endorsement for November — and then he lost. Trump pinned his walk-back on the election fraud claims as the cause.

Now he’s just another Pittsfield cop, albeit probably the only one to have told the New Yorker in October 2022 that the rioters who beat police during the Capitol riot simply “believed that their rights were violated. They believed that they lost their voice.”

Because, you know, the election was stolen.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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