In Manchester, New Hampshire, the stage at Hampshire Hills Athletic Club in Milford was taken by former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley in early January. Two state Republicans, who had openly quarreled a year earlier over whether the 2020 election had been stolen from former President Donald Trump, rallied the crowd in her support before she took the stage.
Retired Army Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc, a veteran of 10 tours in Afghanistan and one of Haley’s first endorsements, was the first to speak. He touted Haley’s support for his failed 2022 Senate run and explained why he signed on to be her New Hampshire campaign chair to an audience of over 700.
“It was made clear by a lot of people while I was running, ‘The guy’s not a politician,'” Bolduc admitted. New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, who endorsed Haley in mid-December and has accompanied her around the state, hopes to defeat Trump in the state’s first-in-the-nation primary on Jan. 23.
“As the general said, [Haley is] the opportunity to get behind a candidate that unifies everybody together, that next generation of conservative leadership,” Sununu told the crowd packed onto the basketball court in the athletic club.
Haley’s path to victory in New Hampshire’s open primary relies on her appeal to undeclared voters, comprising about 40% of the state’s voting bloc, as well as the state’s conservative base, constituting about 30% of registered voters in New Hampshire.
A seminal moment in Bolduc’s 2022 race was his flip-flop over whether he believed the election had been stolen from Trump, an opinion shared by 19 other 2022 GOP Senate candidates, according to a CBS News analysis.
A letter was signed by Bolduc with 120 other generals and admirals, asserting that Donald Trump won the election, as he stated in an August 2022 debate against Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan. “I’m not switching horses, baby. This is it,” he added.
However, weeks later, Bolduc backtracked, claiming on Fox News that after he had “done a lot of research,” he had come to the “definitive” conclusion that “the election was not stolen,” though he asserted there was still fraud.
Haley’s comments about her support for election deniers have not always been accurate. In a 2022 interview with the “Today” show, she stated that she would not campaign for candidates who had denied the results of the 2020 election.
“The comments we made about the 2022 race were put to bed at the Republican breakfast after the  primary,” Bolduc wrote in a text message to CBS News, noting that Governor Sununu and he both agreed that campaigns get sporty, statements are made, and after the dust settles, unity for the greater good is essential.
The endorsements of both men have been touted by the Haley campaign, featuring them in separate ads in recent weeks. Sununu, a popular governor who won reelection in 2022, decisively secured traditionally Democratic areas like Manchester, Nashua, and Merrimack, as well as the Republican-leaning parts of the state.
Haley, on her part, has aimed to appeal to both independents and Republicans on issues like abortion, emphasizing the need to find a national “consensus” on an abortion ban, while also pledging not to judge anyone for supporting abortion rights.
The 2016 GOP primary in New Hampshire was won by Trump, and in the general election, he lost the state by less than 3,000 votes. President Biden secured a more decisive victory in the state in 2020, with nearly 50,000 votes.
Recent polls indicate Trump leading in the GOP primary this year, but both Bolduc and Sununu hope that voters across the state are ready to move on in the interest of selecting a unifying nominee.
Nikki believes, and so do I, that President Trump was the right president in 2016. Trump was also my choice in 2020,” as expressed by Bolduc to CBS News. “Regrettably, over the last four years, President Trump has not progressed and has become more divisive. He is deemed incapable of accomplishing the most crucial task for all Americans, which is uniting the country.”