‘Trump fatigue’ in New Hampshire complicates 2024 White House bid
WEARE, New Hampshire, Jan. 27 (Reuters) – When Donald Trump crushed his Republican rivals in the 2016 New Hampshire primary, the stunning victory told other states that the reality showman was a serious contender. Trump nominated for the Republican nomination, and then for the White House.
But as the former president begins his bid to reclaim the White House in 2024 with a speech Saturday in New Hampshire — his first in an early primary state — he will find the political landscape more treacherous than it was six years ago, according to the data. party activists, members and strategists in the state.
In interviews with 10 New Hampshire GOP officials and members, some of whom worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign and all of whom were staunch Trump supporters in the past, Reuters found only three who supported him this time. including the state. chairman, a powerful Republican figure who is so passionate about Trump that he’s leaving on Saturday to help his campaign.
Others cited fatigue from Trump’s controversy, annoyance at the constant drama, and a desire to walk away from Trump’s defeat in 2020 with a new face they believe will have a better chance of winning in 2024.
The Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
Public dissatisfaction with the former president is worrying Trump. Analysts say a defeat could make it harder for him to win the party’s presidential nomination because New Hampshire often gives a candidate a boost when he heads to other primary states.
The lack of enthusiasm for the former president and his prospects of winning in 2024 could hurt Trump because party activists are doing vital work for candidates, such as knocking on doors and making phone calls to raise money and increase turnout.
Most New Hampshire party members who have cooled towards Trump said they would prefer Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as the party’s flag bearer, although DeSantis has not yet said whether he will apply to the White House.
“Donald Trump is right now distracting the Republican Party from trying to move forward. Donald Trump has run out of steam,” said Brian Sullivan, 60, a member of the Hillsborough County Republican committee who endorsed Trump in the 2016 primary.
“I would have preferred to see someone else in the race, like Ron DeSantis,” Sullivan said.
Although he likes Trump’s politics and applauds his accomplishments in office, “he has so much baggage. I just don’t think he has what it takes to win the White House again,” Sullivan said.
Three Republicans who still support Trump said his New Hampshire base remains enthusiastic, his name is hugely publicized, and that many Republican voters enjoy his political accomplishments during his time in office, which gives him a strong track record, unlike other potential candidates.
The Trump campaign, in an email to supporters, touted the results of a January 24 Emerson College Polling poll that showed the former president leading Republican voters nationally among Republican voters, 55% to 29%.
Nevertheless, the readiness of members of the Republican Party to criticize Trump in conversations with Reuters is striking. Some officials and members of the Republican Party who have broken with Trump in the past have been subject to backlash and online trolling from his supporters.
Lori Davis, 67, got into mainstream Republican politics because of Trump. Back in 2015, when he announced his candidacy, she was encouraged. She worked on his New Hampshire primary campaign, knocking on doors for him, urging everyone she met to vote for him.
Not this time.
“I love Donald Trump. But he went too far in the controversy. He faces an uphill battle in this primary because of his differences. People are tired of the drama,” Davis said at her home over a meal of hamburgers.
“I see that people want DeSantis. It has a lot of Trump philosophy, but it’s not as pompous, it doesn’t attack people 24/7. People are tired of this. It gives them a headache,” Davis said.
“PEOPLE WANT A WINNER”
It’s not just in New Hampshire that Trump is facing potential headwinds. Some of the billionaire donors who helped fund his previous campaigns have yet to donate. Among them are hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebecca Mercer. She has already made a donation to the DeSantis political committee.
New Hampshire plays a huge role in picking presidential candidates because it’s the second nominating contest after the Iowa caucuses.
Although the winner of the New Hampshire Republican primary has not won a statewide general election since George W. Bush in 2000, it is still considered a critical test in the nominating process.
Chris Maidment, chairman of the Hillsborough County Republican Committee, described the mood of many members as “Trump tired,” adding, “I’m definitely keeping an open mind this time. There are many interesting potential candidates.”
Most of the candidates supported by Trump in the competitive races in the November congressional elections lost to the Democrats. In Trump’s four years in office after his 2016 victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton, Republicans lost control of both houses of Congress before he lost the 2020 election to Democratic opponent Joe Biden.
“People need a winner, and elections are about the future. The Republicans need someone who can win and who won’t be a pushover for the left. Trump has represented this before, but I’m not sure if he represents it now,” Neal said. Levesque, executive director of the New Hampshire Policy Institute at St. Anselm College.
In a Levesque poll of likely Republican voters in New Hampshire just before the November election, Trump trailed DeSantis 38% to 47%. Overall, 50% of the state’s voters had a “very unfavorable” impression of Trump, and only 22% had a “very positive” impression.
Another complicating factor for Trump this time around is that independents can vote in the Republican and Democratic primaries in New Hampshire. If Biden runs again, the Democratic primary is likely to go uncontested, and many independents may decide to vote in the Republican primary, where their vote will have more impact.
“Independents go where things are going. Many independents will vote against Trump. And that’s bad news for him,” said Tom Rath, a New Hampshire Republican strategist.
Polls in New Hampshire and elsewhere show that Trump is unpopular with most independents.
Despite signs of Trump fatigue, some party strategists say he will still be a formidable candidate in the New Hampshire primary.
“He still starts 2023 as a leader. He has a reputation, a strong base of supporters. His influence is still quite significant,” said Jim Merrill, a veteran Republican strategist from New Hampshire.
Trump is the only Republican to run so far, although it is likely that the field of rivals will expand this year. DeSantis, a former Trump vice president, Mike Pence and Nikki Haley, a former governor of South Carolina, are expected to join the race.
STICK WITH THE REAL DEAL
For Steve Stepanek, a former state representative who was New Hampshire’s first elected official to endorse Trump in 2015 and is chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party, these would-be challengers would be pale imitations of the real thing.
He remains a staunch supporter of the former president and is about to step down as party chairman because he wants to be in Trump’s latest campaign, he told Reuters.
A replacement will be chosen at a party caucus on Saturday, where Trump will be the keynote speaker. It is not yet clear whether Stepanek’s departure will weaken Trump’s grip on the party apparatus.
Stepanek accused GOP naysayers of being Republican insiders rather than regular voters who decide the primaries.
“Are you going to believe a candidate who says I will continue Trump’s policies, or a person who adheres to Trump’s policies?”
Reporting by Tim Reid from Wear, New Hampshire; Edited by Ross Colvin and Suzanne Goldenberg.
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