With a fresh stack of polls showing him well ahead in the Republican presidential primary– including a new survey from NHJournal — former President Donald Trump largely ignored his GOP opponents and focused his political fire on President Joe Biden during a New Hampshire campaign stop Tuesday.
It was the latest sign the Trump campaign hopes to put the primary to bed before it even begins, presenting its candidate as the inevitable nominee and rallying Republicans to join him in fighting what he called “crooked Joe Biden.”
That was the message of a new TV ad from the pro-Trump “MAGA Inc.” Super PAC, which did not mention any of Trump’s primary challengers. It instead attempted to wrap Hunter Biden’s legal woes around the Biden presidency.
At the Windham High School gym — the same venue where in August 2016, Trump targetted Hillary Clinton’s alleged political corruption over the infamous “wiped” server scandal — the former president said the enthusiasm for his campaign today is even higher than it was for his unlikely, political-outsider race eight years ago.
“I’ve said it twice tonight, and I’ll see it again: We have never had anything like this — the spirit, the love, the passion — there’s never been anything like this,” Trump told the gym packed with enthusiastic supporters. “We went through 2016 and went through 2020. Most people would say they were the most passionate, but this is blowing it away.”
In his speech, Trump offered a mix of traditional politicking and Trumpian irreverence that reminded pundits why he is such a formidable campaigner.
He began with a very traditional message on veterans issues, touting what he described as the successes of his administration and the failures of Joe Biden.
“I proudly signed the V.A. Accountability Act, allowing us to quickly terminate any V.A. bureaucrat who mistreated our vets,” Trump said. “We told more than 10,000 bad, corrupt, or incompetent V.A. workers, ‘You’re Fired.’ Out! Out!” But, he claimed, the Biden administration is bringing many of them back.
“Under the Trump administration… we hit an all-time record in VA satisfaction,” Trump added. “Under President Trump, 92 percent of America’s veterans reported satisfaction with their care.”
And in a classic political move, Trump pointed out this is the only state in the nation without a full-service VA hospital, then promised to “build a brand new, state-of-the-art VA hospital right here in the great state of New Hampshire” if the voters send him to the White House.
“He just ‘ethanoled’ us,” one Republican strategist told NHJournal after the speech, a reference to presidential candidates in Iowa pledging to support ethanol mandates to curry favor in the state’s caucuses.
Trump dutifully delivered his speech packed with policy decisions, from securing the border to ending federal funding for schools promoting race-based Critical Race Theory and “transgender insanity.” In many ways, it was a speech any Republican presidential candidate could have delivered.
But Trump rolled those standard Republican policies into his personal, and sometimes off-color, narrative.
“From the first day in office, I will appoint a special prosecutor to study each and every one of the many claims being brought forth by Congress concerning all of the crooked acts, including bribes from China and many other foreign countries that go into the coffers of the Biden Crime Family,” Trump said. “It is often said that Republicans don’t fight hard enough, and I agree. But they never say that about Trump. And you will see that on the first day of my presidency.”
Trump portrayed the 78 indictments across three jurisdictions (and more almost certain to follow) as “third-world” politics, an attempt by the Biden administration to cripple his candidacy.
“I won’t be able to go to Iowa today. I won’t be able to go to New Hampshire today because I’m sitting in a courtroom on bullsh*t,” Trump told the crowd. The audience responded with changes of “bullsh*t!”
But, Trump said, that strategy isn’t working.
“One more indictment, and I think this election is over,” he quipped.
Several Republican activists who don’t support Trump’s candidacy told NHJournal on background the former president made a very effective presentation.
“He looked loose,” one said. “And he really did seem to have his 2016 mojo back.”
“This thing is over,” another Republican operative said. “Ron DeSantis can’t compete with this.”
Others, however, said that until the debate season starts, it is simply too early to write off the possibility of a competitive primary. Trump mentioned the debate issue and the question of whether he should risk his big lead by participating.
After asking the audience what he should do (they were divided), Trump said, “It doesn’t make sense when you’re leading by so much,” but some people are telling him to do it “for the entertainment value.”
The dozen or so people who talked to NHJournal after the speech were certainly entertained.
“He was outstanding — for a place without air conditioning,” said Tom Heath of Auburn, N.H. He and his cousin Al Heath have seen Trump several times and agreed he was on his game.
“You know why he was comfortable? Because he’s a lion,” Tom Heath said.
“It’s Trump — he delivers,” said Mike Moran of Windham, N.H.
“I think he’s even stronger than in 2016 and 2020,” said Mike Fletcher, also of Windham. Fletcher agreed with Trump that his support is even more intense than in past campaigns. “And I was glad he didn’t say too much about the indictments.”
Kathy of Newton, N.H., said, “He hit all the important issues that we care about,” and she particularly appreciated comments about fighting against ‘woke’ culture rising in the public schools.
“And I think the passion for Trump is growing,” Fletcher added.