Showing more energy than he did during his own campaign for president, an enthusiastic Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) stormed the stage of Friday night’s Trump rally in Concord to endorse the former president.
“Is this Trump Country?” Scott shouted, drawing cheers from the crowd.
Scott, who rarely criticized Trump during his ill-fated White House race, led the audience through a call-and-response listing the reasons he said America needs the former president back in power. Among them: “Closing our southern border,” “Stop crime in the streets,” and “Protect your Social Security and my momma’s Social Security.”
“That’s why I came to the very warm state of New Hampshire to endorse the next president of these United States, President Donald Trump.
Trump welcomed Scott to the stage by noting, “I’m running against somebody from his state, so it’s not, it’s not that easy to do,” a reference to former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. Haley is campaigning aggressively in the Granite State, and polls put her in second place, about 15 points behind Trump but well ahead of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), who is currently polling in single digits.
Scott is frequently mentioned as a potential Trump running-mate pick, and his high-energy announcement could be viewed as part of the audition process.
Earlier in his remarks, Trump gave a shoutout to U.S Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) — though he mispronounced her last name — for her grilling of three Ivy League university presidents over antisemitism on campus. Two of the three were forced out of their jobs amid the backlash over their performance before Congress.
“That was such a beautiful delivery. Did she destroy those three people?”
Stefanik is scheduled to appear at Trump’s campaign headquarters in Manchester on Saturday, a sign she may also be on Trump’s VP list. Someone who, despite rumors to the contrary, is not: Haley. Political pundits recently speculated that if Trump thought he needed Haley on the ticket to unite the party, he might ask her. He appeared to shoot down that idea Friday night.
“She is not presidential timber,” Trump told the crowd. “Now, when I say that, that probably means that she’s not going to be chosen as the vice president.”
Campaigning at a diner in Amherst earlier in the day, Haley appeared to close the door on serving as Trump’s running mate.
“I don’t want to be anybody’s vice president; that’s off the table,” Haley said.
Trump turned his fire on Haley several times during his remarks, claiming she was losing badly in the polls and wasn’t up to the job.
“I know her very well. She’s not tough enough. She’s not smart enough, and she wasn’t respected enough. She cannot do this job,” Trump said. And we have to tell her to leave Social Security alone because she wants to wipe out your Social Security.”
Haley has proposed raising the retirement age slowly over time for young people in order to avoid insolvency. Trump has not proposed a plan to rescue Social Security, which is projected to run out of money by 2033.
Trump also targeted Haley’s biggest Granite State booster, Gov. Chris Sununu, calling him “lazy” and “bad news.”
“You know, he ran for president, but he didn’t announce it because he didn’t have the guts, right?” Trump said of Sununu. “His numbers were in the vicinity of Asa Hutchinson, they were so bad. This guy, he thinks he’s hot stuff. He’s nothing.”
Sununu once predicted Haley would win New Hampshire over Trump “in a landslide,” but he and Haley have revised expectations downward. “A strong second place,” Sununu has said, while Haley talks about being “stronger” in New Hampshire than Iowa and “stronger” still in South Carolina.
When news broke of Scott’s plan to endorse Biden Friday, Sununu went on the attack.
“Tim Scott wouldn’t have a job without Nikki Haley,” he told Fox News. “Nobody cares what Tim Scott thinks. If they did, he actually wouldn’t have been driven out of this race three months ago.”
Polls currently show Trump approaching 50 percent in the Granite State and Haley trailing by about 15 points. In South Carolina, which holds its GOP primary on February 24, Trump leads Haley by 30 points in the RealClearPolitics polling average.
Both Haley and Trump have bumped up the number of events they’re holding in New Hampshire as Tuesday’s primary approaches, while DeSantis will be in South Carolina Saturday, then returning to the Granite State on Sunday. Trump told the crowd New Hampshire could effectively end the presidential primary race if they give him a big win.
“New polls just came out. DeSantis is at four,” Trump said. “What happened to this guy? It’s one of the greatest self-destructions I think I’ve ever witnessed. And [Haley] ain’t doing too good, either. She’s down very low.
“This could end it,” Trump added.” Then, we can focus on the worst president. Then we can focus on Biden and his thugs.”
The Granite Staters in the crowd said they are ready to go.
“We are here to support Trump; we want him to win in November,” said Angela Kontoes of Boscawen.
“We need him back,” added her husband Dan.
Asked about their votes in 2016 when Trump ran the first time, both said they voted for someone else, and it was a. mistake.
“I’m not making that mistake again. He’s been good with the military, and pumping oil — plus China. He wants things made in America, not China,” Dan said.
“Taking care of his own (Americans), not Ukraine and things like that.”
‘He’s very smart,” Angela said.
Tom of Plainfield (he declined to give his last name) was wearing a “Trump Save America” sweatshirt. He said Trump “did a lot of good when he was in office.” Asked what he wanted Trump to “save” America from, he didn’t hesitate — “Open borders.”
“We’re letting illegal immigrants walk in and we don’t do anything about it.”
Border chaos was the top concern of Jessica Aughenbaugh from Concord, too. Asked why she’s backing Trump, Aughenbaugh said, “He fixed our border, and Biden broke it.”