Is Trump showing N.H. any love?

  • Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally Oct. 28, 2016, in Manchester. AP file

For the Monitor
Monday, October 16, 2017

“We love New Hampshire,” Donald Trump proclaimed at a rally in Manchester just days before last November’s presidential election.

The Republican candidate repeatedly professed his love for the Granite State during his numerous 2016 presidential election campaign visits.

Since his inauguration as president, Trump’s made stops in 26 states across the country. Many of the trips are for official presidential business, but some are campaign-style events, organized and paid for by his 2020 re-election organization.

But the president has yet to visit New Hampshire, having last set foot in the Granite State on election eve, when he held a large rally in Manchester.

Trump traveled to Pennsylvania on Wednesday, to campaign for his tax reform proposals. And this week he heads to South Carolina, to campaign for that state’s Republican governor.

The majority of the states Trump has visited are those he won last November. While his impressive victory in New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary launched him toward winning the GOP nomination, Trump narrowly lost the general election battle for the state’s four electoral votes to Hillary Clinton. The Democratic nominee edged out Trump by less than 2,800 votes in the Granite State.

And that’s why one of Trump’s top 2016 supporters in New Hampshire is convinced he’ll be back soon.

“The way that things went down in the general (election), he’s not a guy who takes a loss too well.,” said state Rep. Fred Doucette, a co-chair of the Trump campaign in New Hampshire. “I fully expect him to return to the state, because he does in fact love the state of New Hampshire.”

The Republican from Salem said he’s not disappointed that Trump’s yet to return to the Granite State, adding “the President’s plate is full.”

It was a similar message from state Rep. Al Baldasaro, a top surrogate and adviser on veterans issues.

The outspoken GOP lawmaker from Londonderry said the president is busy right now.

“He’s got other priorities going on with the Senate,” Baldasaro explained, saying Trump’s busy trying to win a GOP supermajority in the chamber in next year’s election.

“I honestly believe that after the midterms are over Trump will be back in New Hampshire. There’s no doubt,” Baldasaro declared.

Steve Duprey, one of the state’s two members on the Republican National Committee, said, “People worry way too much about this stuff.”

“He’s less than a year into his presidency. He’s got plenty of challenges that have to do with governing. I don’t think he needs to be in New Hampshire this early. We historically only see a president once in the four years, maybe twice, before they’re up for re-election, so I don’t think it’s really a big deal at all,” added Duprey, a former chairman of the New Hampshire GOP.

Duprey, who’s long fought to protect the state’s primary position in the GOP calendar, pointed out that Trump’s “been very supportive of the New Hampshire primary.”

Even a top Granite State supporter of Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who battled Trump throughout the Republican primaries and refused to endorse Trump after he locked up the nomination, said he doesn’t see the lack of a visit by the President “as a slight.”

“I don’t think it’s an enormous issue right now with anybody. I don’t think we’re overlooked. We’ve had lots of members of the Cabinet here,” added Tom Rath, a nationally known GOP strategist and former New Hampshire attorney general.

Former New Hampshire Republican Party chairman Fergus Cullen, who was a vocal critic of Trump during the 2016 campaign, agreed that the lack of a visit wasn’t a slight to the Granite State. But he added that he doesn’t think there’s “any strategic approach to how they (the Trump administration) organize the president’s time, and this just one indicator of that.”

While the first nine months of the Trump presidency have been turbulent, his core supporters in New Hampshire remain firmly behind their man.

“I believe the message still resonates with his core supporters,’ Doucette said. “He’s got my support till the cows come home.”

Baldasaro added that “we’re all still in contact with each other. We’re all still together. We’re still 100 percent behind Trump.”

Kasich is the only potential 2020 GOP primary challenger to pay a visit to the Granite State this year. The two-term Ohio governor and former congressman, who’s strong second-place finish in the New Hampshire primary boosted his once-longshot campaign, made a New Hampshire stop during his book tour earlier this year.

But Rath said it’s “too early to tell” if any GOP politician will challenge Trump in the 2020 primaries.

“I think the big test for him (Trump) will come in the 2018 midterms, if the Republican Party loses or has an eroded majority U.S. House and Senate, and statehouses, that’s going to have more relevance to whether there’s going to be a 2020 primary challenger,” Rath said.

And Duprey pointed out that “it’s not uncommon” for sitting president to face a primary challenge.

“Almost all incumbent presidents get a primary challenge. Sometimes they are serious. Sometimes they’re frivolous,” he said.

Former state Republican Party chairwoman Jennifer Horn said, “A lot can happen in four years, or in the case of this administration, four days, and it would be a mistake to assume that the equation for victory won’t change dramatically between now and 2020.”

And she warned that “neither the president nor any other candidates should take New Hampshire for granted.”