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WILTON, N.H – Former Vice President Mike Pence returned to New Hampshire on Wednesday evening, to headline a fundraiser for former Army Gen. Don Bolduc, who hours earlier narrowly won the Republican Senate nomination in the key general battleground state.
Bolduc will face former governor and first-term Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan in November’s midterm elections in a Senate race that may determine if the GOP wins back the chamber’s majority.
“I am here for one reason, and one reason only. And that is 54 days from today we need to retire Maggie Hassan,” the former vice president said to energetic applause from the crowd of Republican leaders, officials, activists and donors gathered in Wilton, New Hampshire. “If there was ever a time when we needed New Hampshire and America to send proven conservative leadership to the United States Senate, it is now. If there was ever a time for Gen. Don Bolduc in the United States Senate, it is now.”
Bolduc, in making his second straight Senate bid, has run as an outsider and populist as he’s embraced much of former President Donald Trump’s agenda. He narrowly edged his top rival – longtime New Hampshire Senate president Chuck Morse – in a crowded and combustible field of contenders in a primary battle that became increasingly divisive.
Former Vice President Mike Pence headlines a fundraiser for New Hampshire GOP Senate nominee Don Bolduc, on Sept. 14, 2022, in Wilton, N.H. (Fox News)
While Bolduc gave New Hampshire conservatives plenty of red meat, there were concerns from some Republicans in the state and nationally that a primary victory by the retired general, who has severely struggled with fundraising, will allow Hassan to win re-election. Two weeks ago, a newly formed super PAC named the White Mountain PAC, which had loose links to longtime Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s political orbit, dished out roughly $4 million to run TV commercials in New Hampshire blasting Bolduc for his “crazy ideas.”
Both Pence and Bolduc urged party unity in their remarks at the fundraiser.
“Now is the time for us to unite and come together as a party in New Hampshire, come together as a party all across this country and do what needs to be done. And I’m here to tell you I know we will,” Pence said. “People worry sometimes about the divisions in party. I was asked about that when I was up in Wisconsin earlier this week. What are we going to do to bring the Republican Party together? I said I got four solutions – Chuck, Nancy, Joe, Kamala.”
With two of his primary rivals sitting in the audience, Bolduc attempted to make amends.
New Hampshire Republican U.S. Senate candidate Don Bolduc smiles during a primary night campaign gathering, Tuesday Sept. 13, 2022, in Hampton, N.H. (AP Photo/Reba Saldanha)
“A campaign is tough. It’s tough on everybody. We say things in the heat of conversation that we regret later. We hope that we can say we’re sorry for it and people forgive, but that’s not always the case. And I’m no different,” Bolduc lamented. “I’m a man who’s fallible. A man who errors. A man who says things that perhaps should be left unsaid.”
And he emphasized that “I think we should take account for that. Because the only way that we are going to gain unity is to recognize that we’re not all perfect. Recognize our faults. Recognize that we’ve made mistakes. Ask God for forgiveness. Ask people for forgiveness. And then we have to move forward. I cannot do this alone. I need your help.”
Hillsborough County GOP chair Chris Ager, who’s one of New Hampshire’s two committee members on the Republican National Committee, stressed that “it’s great that within 24 hours of winning, we have a substantial number of a different segment of the party, that may not have voted for him [Bolduc], but have contributed to him already. It’s a great sign moving forward that we can pull everybody together.”
Ager, who helped organize the fundraiser, added that “I think it’s an important message that Republicans are coming together to win in November in New Hampshire.”
In both of his Senate campaigns, fundraising has not been Bolduc’s strong suit. As of August 24, he had a meager $84,000 cash on hand in his campaign coffers. A source involved in Wednesday night’s fundraiser told Fox News that six-figures were raised at the gathering.
Pence agreed to headline the fundraiser a couple of weeks ago, without knowing who would win the GOP Senate nomination in New Hampshire. And the teaming up of the former vice president and Bolduc may have potentially led to some awkward conversation.
Pence has been very clear about his differences with Trump over the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by right wing extremists and other Trump supporters who aimed to disrupt congressional certification of President Biden’s Electoral College victory in the 2020 election. Some of the rioters chanted hang Mike Pence as they stormed the Capitol. Pence, at the time, was in the Capitol in his constitutional role overseeing the congressional certification and he and the members of Congress were moved by Capitol Police to safety after the building was breached.
Bolduc, during his Senate bid, has appeared to embrace the former president’s unproven claims that the 2020 election was “rigged.” Bolduc was part of a group of retired generals who signed a letter questioning the legitimacy of the election due to what they charged was “a tremendous amount of fraud.”
Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks at ‘Politics and Eggs’ at Saint Anselm College’s New Hampshire Institute of Politics, on August 17, 2022, in Goffstown, N.H. (Fox News )
The trip by Pence, who appears to be moving towards launching a 2024 presidential campaign, was his second this summer and fifth over the past year and a half to New Hampshire, which for a century’s held the first primary in the race for the White House.
During his last visit to the Granite State, he headlined “Politics and Eggs,” which is a must stop for potential or actual White House hopefuls.
Two days after his August stop in New Hampshire, Pence made a busy two-day swing through Iowa, whose caucuses have led off the presidential nominating calendar for half a century. The former vice president’s itinerary included another must-stop for White House hopefuls: a visit to the Iowa State Fair.
Paul Steinhauser is a politics reporter based in New Hampshire.