After weeks of inaction and negative press, former President Donald Trump will be back on the campaign stump on Saturday, beginning with a stop at the New Hampshire GOP state committee meeting. He is scheduled to appear at a campaign launch event in South Carolina later that same day.
“We are excited to welcome President Trump back to the Granite State to be the keynote speaker at our 2023 Annual Meeting,” said outgoing GOP state party chairman Stephen Stepanek. “President Trump has long been a strong defender of New Hampshire’s First in the Nation Primary Status and we are excited that he will join us to deliver remarks to our Members.”
Trump’s visit comes as questions are raised about his popularity within the Republican Party he once dominated. Supporters point to polls showing he is still the most popular Republican in the nation, while critics cite his loss in 2020 and the poor performance of MAGA candidates in the 2022 midterm elections.
What sort of Republican Party will be on hand to greet Trump Saturday? Will it be the enthusiastic grassroots army of 2015? Or Republican voters disappointed in the performance of their party — and Trump’s picks — last year?
“He will play the greatest hits and the crowd will clap and nod, but what’s waiting for Donald Trump in New Hampshire is a Republican Party that’s tired of losing,” one veteran GOP strategist told NHJournal. “And more grassroots activists in the room than the Trump campaign wants to believe, think it’s because of him.”
And former GOP comms pro Alicia Preston Xanthopolous responded to the news of Trump’s visit on Twitter. “So, we didn’t learn anything from November? Brilliant.”
Trump is certain to get an enthusiastic welcome from at least one person: His former state co-chair Lou Gargiulo, who will be attending as a candidate for state party chairman.
“I look forward to welcoming President Trump back to New Hampshire on Saturday and hearing his remarks at the annual meeting,” Gargiulo told NHJournal. “I am proud to have served on both of President Trump’s campaigns, starting in 2016 as New Hampshire delivered President Trump his first primary victory on his way to the White House.”
Gargiulo’s opponent, Chris Ager, said he also “looks forward to welcoming President Trump to New Hampshire. As we head into presidential primary season, it’ll be great to see all of the candidates – with the exception of Joe Biden, who apparently is too afraid to face Granite State voters.”
Most of the 505 members of the GOP state committee are expected to attend the meeting, at which they will elect a new chair and vice chair of the party. Running for the vice chair slot are Randall Kelley of Bristol, longtime GOP activist Christine Peters and Board of Education member Ryan Terrell.
“It is an honor to have our most recent President address the Republican State Committee meeting. We look forward to welcoming President Trump and many others as the 2024 FITN season heats up in New Hampshire,” said Peters.
One person who won’t be on hand: Gov. Chris Sununu. “The governor had not made any plans to attend the annual meeting this year,” a spokesperson told NHJournal.
That is in stark contrast to Trump’s visit to South Carolina, where he will appear with Gov. Henry McMaster and Sen. Lindsey Graham to announce his Palmetto State leadership team.
Trump has faced a steady stream of criticism since formally announcing his 2024 candidacy in a speech from Mar-a-Lago late last year. But fans and foes have noted how little action he’s taken, with many asking “Where’s the campaign?” Trump’s appearances on Saturday appear to be part of a boost in activities Trump announced via social media last week.
“The Fake News says I am not campaigning very hard. I say they are stupid and corrupt, with the Election still a long time away,” Trump said. “But do not fear, MANY GIANT RALLIES and other events coming up soon. It will all be wild and exciting. We will save our Country from DOOM and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
And Trump still has outspoken supporters in the New Hampshire GOP, including First Congressional District nominee Karoline Leavitt who tweeted, “President Trump will win the New Hampshire GOP Primary in 2024!”
But even Trump supporters tell NHJournal they know he has lost some support among the base and they have work to do. And they acknowledge his base within the party is somewhere around the 35 percent margin his candidates got in the NHGOP primaries last year. But that can still be enough to win.
NBC News quoted a Trump advisor speaking off the record: “Our message to everyone is, ‘Run against Trump. Please. We dare you.'”