Trump praises Bolduc as 'strong guy,' stops short of endorsement

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Sep. 1—Former President Donald Trump praised U.S. Senate Republican hopeful Don Bolduc of Stratham as a "strong guy, tough guy" Thursday and told a national radio talk show host he's "looking at" the race "very strongly."

Trump said on the John Fredericks Show that it appears the race is "between two of them," referring to Bolduc, a retired brigadier general, and Senate President Chuck Morse of Salem.

"I'm looking at that race very closely. He said some great things, strong guy, tough guy. I think he's doing very well, too. I hear he's up, he's up quite a bit," Trump said in his interview.

Fredericks had endorsed Bolduc, 60, several days ago.

"But look, Don's a fighter. I mean, he's been in Afghanistan, he's done 10 tours. He was not a political general. He was on the battlefield, and he's just run around New Hampshire, grassroots, true MAGA, really believe in the America First agenda," Fredericks told Trump.

"You know, I don't endorse a lot of candidates, but I think, I think he's the guy."

Trump backed Bolduc foe in 2020

In 2020, Trump endorsed Bolduc's GOP primary opponent, Wolfeboro trial lawyer Corky Messner, who won that contest and went on to lose badly to Democrat Jeanne Shaheen.

"So I am looking at it, and I'm looking at it very strongly. I think he's, basically it sounds like it's between the two of them," Trump said.

Sources close to Trump said no decision has been made and Morse remains very much in the running with Bolduc to get an endorsement.

The former president has already spoken with and sought advice from key members of his New Hampshire inner circle that go back with him to 2015.

The Bolduc campaign released its own statement praising Trump.

"President Trump's policies made us energy independent and strong," Bolduc's campaign said.

"Unfortunately Joe Biden and Maggie Hassan have undone all the things that made our country great and Granite Staters deserve better. Just like President Trump did when he was elected in 2016, Don Bolduc will go to DC and drain the dreaded swamp."

The Morse campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Bolduc has supported many Trump policies and opinions including the false narrative that liberal election workers stole the 2020 election and handed it to Joe Biden.

Corey Lewandowski, Trump's campaign manager in 2016, said he's spoken to Trump many times about the race and has sharply criticized Bolduc.

Last spring, Lewandowski said Bolduc "disqualified" himself with comments on Fox News about how the CIA or military could "get in there on the ground" in Ukraine, using "special operations troops" and "indirect fires and direct capabilities" to attack Russian targets.

Bolduc said a "liberal" foreign correspondent who interviewed him on Fox took his comments out of context and had misquoted him.

Sununu: Bolduc 'not a serious candidate'

Gov. Chris Sununu has said Bolduc was "not a serious candidate" who had "baggage" that would make it harder to unseat Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., if he is the party's nominee.

Fredericks informed Trump a group of Republican establishment figures formed a Super PAC to spend $4 million on ads over the final two weeks praising Morse on immigration.

Les Williamson, a former political aide to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, created the White Mountain PAC on Tuesday, the same day a University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll had Bolduc with a commanding 43% to 22% lead over Morse.

An original $2.6 million ad buy was bumped up to $4 million late Wednesday with most of the commercials to air in the very expensive Boston TV market.

The campaign of GOP rival Vikram Mansharamani of Lincoln claimed its own internal poll put him solidly in third place with 8%. Bolduc was leading in this poll with 22% to 13% for Morse, according to Mansharamani's campaign.

The other popular figure with GOP primary voters, Gov. Chris Sununu, hasn't ruled out endorsing in this race as well.

Sununu and his political family have a long history with Morse, 61, who comes from the same hometown of Salem and served as acting governor occasionally while Sununu was outside the state.

A UNH poll released Thursday gave Sununu a commanding lead over all of his little-known primary rivals.

Sununu had 72% support to 7% for Brentwood businessman Thad Riley, 5% for Franklin conservative Karen Testerman and 1% for retired Marine Julian Acciard of Derry.

klandrigan@unionleader.com