On one level, the New Hampshire Republican Senate candidate was merely saying out loud what many political strategists have been urging GOP candidates to do: Stop talking about abortion and focus on the economy.
But in a weekend interview, Don Bolduc, the tough-talking retired brigadier general, directed that advice to his opponent, Democratic US Senator Maggie Hassan, criticizing her focus on the overturned constitutional right to abortion. “Get over it,” Bolduc said on WMUR CloseUp.
Needless to say, that didn’t end the conversation.
Planned Parenthood Votes pounced on the comments, issuing an immediate, all-caps press release: “WE’RE NOT GETTING OVER THE ELIMINATION OF OUR RIGHTS, DON.” US Senator Jeanne Shaheen blasted Bolduc on Twitter, saying New Hampshire women would not “‘get over’ being made second-class citizens.”
Who wants to tell @GenDonBolduc that NH women don’t “get over” being made second-class citizens? Women will show up on 11/8 for candidates who will defend their fundamental rights to control their own bodies. In this race, there is only one person who’ll do that: @Maggie_Hassan. https://t.co/YuuFMfzJkc— Jeanne Shaheen (@JeanneShaheen) September 18, 2022
Hassan spun his comments straight into a digital ad and dispatched five elected women in New Hampshire to tell reporters that Bolduc’s position is at odds with residents of the libertarian-leaning Granite State, where six out of 10 residents opposed overturning Roe v. Wade, a UNH Survey Center poll found in May.
And on Tuesday, the New Hampshire Democratic Party plans to kick off a “We Won’t Get Over It” tour, with elected officials highlighting Bolduc’s comments to suggest he is out of touch.
“Freedom was taken away from half the population with this decision. But Don Bolduc told them to ‘get over it,’ said state Senator Donna Soucy. “Don Bolduc’s comments show he has no respect for New Hampshire women.”
The controversy was the latest example of an emerging theme of the midterm elections, as Republicans trying to tiptoe around voters’ anger over abortion bans inadvertently inflame it. Last week, Senator Lindsey Graham introduced a nationwide ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, specifically defining a restriction that might otherwise have been discounted as Democratic alarmism. Asked about having handed Democrats “a box of grenades” before the midterms, the South Carolina Republican defended his position and frowned upon efforts to avoid the issue.
“When you ask about abortion, the answer can’t be, ‘I’d like to lower inflation,’” Graham said on Fox News Sunday. “Give a logical answer.”
Like Graham and other Republicans who are trying to cast Democrats as extremists on abortion, Bolduc characterized Hassan in Sunday’s interview as out of step with New Hampshire voters.
“Your views are not consistent with the average Granite Stater, number one,” Bolduc said. “Number two, get over it. This is about the economy, fiscal responsibility, and the safety and security of this nation, which you cannot defend.”
The Bolduc campaign did not respond Monday to requests for comment, but his campaign consultant Rick Wiley stood by his comments on Twitter, saying, “He’s right.”
“The media wants to carry the Dems water on this issue,” he wrote. “Don’t let them.”
He’s right. We hear about sky high grocery bills, panic over this winters’ heating bills, 401k destruction, retirees going back to work, shall I go on? The media wants to carry the Dems water on this issue. Don’t let them. https://t.co/SHVPFgdHEH— Rick Wiley (@rick_wiley) September 18, 2022
On Monday, Bolduc’s campaign highlighted a new endorsement by Scott Brown, the former Massachusetts Senator and ambassador to New Zealand who now lives in New Hampshire. In a statement, Bolduc called Brown “living proof candidates written off by the establishment can overcome the odds with hard work and channeling voters’ desire for change.”
Brown, also in a statement, said he is impressed with Bolduc’s “authentic grassroots operation and commitment to town hall meetings.”
A veteran of the Army Special Forces community who commanded some of the nation’s most famous units during the war on terror, Bolduc received two awards for valor, five Bronze Star medals, and two Purple Hearts, according to his campaign website.
“Not only are his military accomplishments unmatched, he connects with voters in a way Washington, D.C. doesn’t understand,” Brown said. “He listens to people and hears their pain.”
But women on the other side of the abortion issue found his comments on the subject “disrespectful.”
Former House Speaker Terie Norelli called Bolduc’s “get over it” remark “one of the most callous and insulting comments that I’ve heard in years.”
“This is not something we can just get over,” state Senator Becky Whitley told reporters on Monday. “This is because we know that Republicans certainly have not gotten over their attempt to eviscerate and dismantle our fundamental freedoms ... anyone who would tell us to get over the Supreme Court taking away our liberties does not deserve our vote.”
“It was just such a dismissive thing to say,” said Olivia Cappello, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Votes. “And completely disconnected with reality when he says that Maggie Hassan is an outlier. That’s just patently false, both nationally and in New Hampshire where 6 out of 10 voters disapproved of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe.”
National Republican consultant Liz Mair said that New Hampshire is a particularly difficult state for a Republican who opposes abortion rights to run statewide.
“It’s obviously not a good sound bite. I think we can all concede that,” Mair said. “I also do think though that if Hassan thinks she can make this race 100 percent abortion and nothing else, that’s not right.”
Hassan has been viewed as vulnerable in the Senate race, and has described Bolduc as “the most extreme candidate for US Senate that New Hampshire has seen in decades” and focused on his far-right positions, particularly on abortion. Bolduc has called himself “unapologetically pro-life,” and said he respects life “from the beginning to the end.”
On election night, he also said he would not support Graham’s proposed abortion ban after 15 weeks, saying the issue should be left to the states. Last week, Hassan launched an abortion-themed TV ad tailor-made for the “Live Free or Die” state: “Don Bolduc and anti-choice Republicans are taking away your personal freedoms,” the ad states.
Stephanie Ebbert can be reached at Stephanie.Ebbert@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @StephanieEbbert.