Republican Robert Troy showed up at Sandown Town Hall on Thursday craving more detail from Donald Trump about his plan to retain jobs in the United States. Troy, a supporter who sells and services power equipment, is sick of what he calls “bickering back and forth.”
“Neither (candidate) has really gotten to their policies. It’s more trying to discredit each other,” said Troy, a 55-year-old from Raymond. “I want to hear him give more information of what he’s going to do.”
Trump came to the wood-paneled building Thursday night to hold a rare town hall meeting. The New York businessman faced an hour of pre-screened questions from an invite-only, friendly crowd, but offered little new information about his positions.
Despite speculation that the event was a warm-up for the presidential debate Sunday – which will feature questions from undecided voters in the audience – Trump dismissed the notion.
“This has nothing to do with Sunday,” he said, referencing the debate in St. Louis. “I am here for one reason. I love the people of New Hampshire.”
The cramped atmosphere in the sweltering, one-room town hall building was a far cry from the mega-rallies Trump typically favors, where he drops in, repeats a stump speech before thousands of cheering supporters and departs.
In Sandown, scarecrows line the main drag of the small town, which has a population of 6,000 and is located just north of the Massachusetts border.
Unlike a typical town hall, where voters pepper a candidate with questions, attendees had to write out questions on note cards and submit them to the campaign ahead of time.
The questions were then read aloud by the moderator – conservative radio host Howie Carr – who sat with Trump at the front of the room, separated from the crowd by a red, velvet rope line. Questions ranged from what Trump would do for veterans – asked by campaign adviser state Rep. Al Baldasaro – to the businessman’s earliest childhood memory. (Trump recalled listening to his father negotiate business deals while he played with blocks on the floor.)
Some Republicans took to Twitter to question the format.
Trump “ ‘town hall’ has invite-only audience and moderator,” wrote Republican strategist Jim Merrill. “Not a traditional NH (First in the Nation) town hall.”
Trump rarely interacted directly with the voters, who sometimes stood while their questions were read by Carr. The attendees sat in lined rows before Trump, while he stood in front of a giant American flag and reiterated his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal and voiced support for building a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border, one of his primary policy positions.
Ahead of his visit, advocacy group New Futures had criticized Trump’s remarks on opioids and called on him to release a more detailed plan to deal with addiction.
But Trump didn’t introduce any new policy, and he repeated past assertions that building the wall would help keep illegal drugs out of the state.
“I am going to stop the drugs from coming in,” he said. “They are poisoning our youth.”
Democrat Hillary Clinton currently leads Trump in New Hampshire – a key swing state – by 5 percentage points, according to a recent poll average. But a fresh survey released by the Boston Globe on Thursday shows the businessman catching up to the former secretary of state, trailing her by just 2 percentage points.
In traditional fashion, Trump brought up the numbers at the top of the rally, reading off a list of recent polls that show him closing the gap. “When we do badly, I don’t know about polls,” he said. “But when we’re doing well, we know about polls.”
Trump didn’t make mention of Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s recent remarks on whether he’s a role model for children. During a debate Monday, Ayotte said she “absolutely” would tell a child to aspire to be like Trump, but later she walked the comment back and said she “misspoke.”
Troy left feeling that Trump had connected with the voters. As for policy details? He got some of what he wanted.
“There were some policy specifics, not all,” he said. “It’s such a short time to get into all the policy.”
(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or firstname.lastname@example.org)