Trump To Hit New Hampshire in First Campaign Event Outside Florida

One person will be notably absent from Trump’s rally — the state’s Republican governor, Chris Sununu.

AP/Jacquelyn Martin
President Trump arrives to speak at a rally on January 6, 2021, at Washington. Even he is not talking much about the Biden economy. AP/Jacquelyn Martin

President Trump will be hitting the trail this weekend for his first official campaign events outside the state of Florida since announcing his presidential candidacy in November.

The first stop will be New Hampshire, where Mr. Trump is slated to speak Saturday at the state’s Republican Party annual meeting at Salem. Most of the 505 GOP committee members are expected to attend, though there will be one person notably absent: the state’s Republican governor, Chris Sununu.

Governor Sununu won re-election in 2022 by more than 15 points, while the New Hampshire MAGA candidates for federal office who were either endorsed by Mr. Trump or aligned closely with him took a beating at the polls. Mr. Sununu says he is mulling a run for the White House in 2024, framing himself as a commonsense, fiscally responsible alternative to the MAGA brand and even antagonizing the former president by calling him “f—ing crazy” at a Gridiron Club roast last spring.

Yet Republicans in the Granite State are welcoming Mr. Trump’s visit — even if they’re not endorsing him — mainly because he is choosing the first-in-the-nation primary state as his inaugural campaign stop, while the Democratic National Committee seeks to sideline it.

“He’s coming here before any other state. He’s honoring our first primary,” the director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, Neil Levesque, tells the Sun, adding, “President Biden is making a huge mistake.”

In December, the DNC’s Rules & Bylaws Committee voted to upend the traditional early-nominating calendar to make South Carolina the first primary, followed by New Hampshire and Nevada on the same date, and then Georgia and Michigan to round out the early window. Iowa’s caucus was scrapped entirely from the early-voting calendar.

The impetus for these changes, according to a letter to the DNC from President Biden, who suggested the new schedule, is “to ensure that voters of color have a voice in choosing our nominee much earlier in the process.” New Hampshire and Iowa are more than 90 percent white.

Mr. Biden came in fifth place in the New Hampshire primary in 2020, departing the state before voting day to head to South Carolina, where he won his first primary contest with the help of an endorsement from a Congressional Black Caucus member, Representative Jim Clyburn. Putting South Carolina first is largely seen as payback for the state’s role — and that of its Black voters — in Mr. Biden clinching the Democratic nomination.

New Hampshire, though, isn’t giving up its first-in-the-nation primary without a fight — and likely not at all, punishment be damned.

New Hampshire state law mandates its primary be held seven days before any “similar contest,” and Republicans control the governorship and the legislature. The Republican National Committee is committed to upholding the traditional primary schedule.

“We will not be blackmailed. We will not be threatened,” Mr. Sununu wrote in a response letter to the DNC in January. “I have a message for them and President Biden — you can try to come and take it — but that is Never. Going. To. Happen.”

The New Hampshire Democratic Party chairman, Raymond Buckley, is publicly taking the same stance. He calls the Democratic National Committee’s demand that early-voting states also implement no-excuse absentee and early voting “unrealistic” for a state controlled by Republicans and a “deliberate poison pill” to the Granite State’s primary.

“The path to the White House runs straight through New Hampshire, and Republicans know it,” he tells the Sun “The DNC’s plan to penalize New Hampshire and withhold resources from our state jeopardizes the entire Democratic slate in 2024.”

To Politico, Mr. Buckley was more blunt: “They can take away our delegates but we’re still going to have the first-in-the-nation primary.”

On Wednesday evening at a virtual meeting of the DNC’s Rules & Bylaws Committee, members criticized New Hampshire Democrats for publicly airing party grievances. They gave an extension until June 3 for Georgia and New Hampshire to meet their requirements to be part of the early window, though an extension is unlikely to change anything for the Granite State.

The full Democratic National Committee is scheduled to vote on the new primary calendar next week. Whether New Hampshire will be stripped of its delegates for scheduling its primary first or whether Democrat candidates are punished for campaigning early in the state is yet to be decided.

“They’re not hurting New Hampshire, they’re hurting themselves,” a GOP strategist, David Carney, tells the Sun. “I hope they screw New Hampshire Democrats like they’ve never been screwed before, and shut them off for money and surrogates and, you know, maybe we have a more competitive chance to carry New Hampshire.”

Mr. Levesque says Mr. Biden is “demonstrating to voters that he can’t compete in a state that has normal campaigning like New Hampshire, and he’s trying to rig the election to his best benefit.”

A poll released by the University of New Hampshire Wednesday shows support for a Biden 2024 run is not much improved from 2020, with 66 percent of likely Democratic voters in the state saying they don’t want him to run for re-election. The transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg, beats Mr. Biden in this poll, with Senator Warren tying him at 18 percent.

Mr. Trump fares better than Mr. Biden in 2024 New Hampshire primary polls. In several conservative-leaning polls, Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, is tied or slightly outperforms Mr. Trump in a head-to-head matchup, while other polls show Mr. Trump with a substantial lead in a 2024 New Hampshire primary.  

Mr. Trump’s reception in the state Saturday will still be “a little lackluster compared to what he’s seen in the past,” New Hampshire’s house majority leader, Jason Osborne, a Republican, tells the Sun.

“A lot of people who were very on board with the idea of Trump at the beginning of his tenure,” Mr. Osborne says, “feel a little let down by how things went, particularly with Covid and around the 2020 election, and find it a little embarrassing.”

New Hampshire Republicans say Mr. Sununu not attending Saturday should not be viewed as a snub — he wasn’t planning to attend. They also say it’s too early to make any predictions for 2024, especially since no other candidates have officially jumped in the race.

“In 2016, would anyone have predicted that Trump would win the primary?” Mr. Osborne asks. “Everybody has a chance to redeem themselves.”

Mr. Buckley disagrees. “We rejected him in the midterms just like we did in 2016 and 2020. We’ll do it again in 2024,” he says. He adds that Democrats should take note that Republicans are starting their campaigning in the state. “Donald Trump’s visit is only the beginning,” he says.

Mr. Trump is stopping in South Carolina for a campaign event later in the day Saturday — but he made a decision many consider smart: He put New Hampshire first.

The New York Sun

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