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Election Deniers Are Pivoting to November. Can They Pull It Off?

At a Republican debate just before the Sept. 13 primary, Mr. Bolduc, a retired Army brigadier general, unequivocally: “I signed a letter with 120 other generals and admirals saying Trump won the election, and hell, I stand by my letter.” He added for good measure, “I’m not changing horses, honey. This is it.”

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His nomination fell, Mr. Bolduc on September 15 left that horse in a ditch. “I’ve done a lot of research on this,” he said on Fox News after showing a clip of his pledge to stay the course on election denial, “and I’ve spent the last few weeks talking to Granite Staters across the state from all parties, and I’ve come to the conclusion — and I want to be final on this – the election was not stolen.”

When a stunned Fox host, Dana Perino, pointed out that Mr. Bolduc’s blunt statements before the primary, he shrugged: “You know, live and learn, right?”

Electoral swings to the center are nothing new, but few would say that Mr. Bolduc, a political newcomer whose authenticity was his calling card, did his job smoothly.

“Don spent the last three years hanging with primary voters, one-third to one-half, who bought into the whole stolen election thing, or at least thought something was fishy,” said Mr. Cullen. “When you spend so much time around people who feel that way, it’s easy to think that everyone feels that way.”

Then he won the primary and realized it just wasn’t like that, added Mr. Cullen.

Mr. Bolduc’s post-primary switcheroo created a new problem: Even as he sought to woo an ordinary voter, he now also had to mend fences with his base. Supporters posted a Facebook message they said Mr Bolduc had sent them explaining his switch. Yes, he wrote without evidence, election fraud in 2020 was widespread — in mail-in ballots, voting machines and drop-box stuffing. But he added: “Was Biden put into the presidency through a constitutional process … yes.”