President Donald Trump is going to pack the SNHU arena next Thursday night for another of his hard-charging, high-energy campaign rallies. And, some New Hampshire Republicans fear, the timing couldn’t be worse.
President Trump was greeted by angry protests and an unfriendly media when he traveled to Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas on Wednesday, and there’s no reason to expect a different reception when he comes to Manchester, NH next week. New Hampshire is at best a purple state in a deep-blue New England sea, and Trump’s poll numbers here aren’t great. In the latest Morning Consult state-by-state breakdown, Trump is underwater by -17 points (40 percent approve, 57 percent disapprove).
And that’s the good news. Trump was down by 23 percent last month and his approval in the Granite State had been steadily declining all year. In fact, of the 12 states identified as 2020 swing states by Morning Consult, Trump’s numbers in New Hampshire are his worst.
Now add the politics of the moment: The anguish over two mass shootings, the debate over gun policy, and 2020 Democrats declaring Trump a “white supremacist.” Sen. Cory Booker, Rep. Seth Moulton and other Democrats have called for Trump to cancel the rally altogether.
“He needs to accept responsibility for his words, and he needs to now take responsibility for this crisis and do something, and not stand at another rally and say more despicable things about other Americans,” Booker told WMUR. “The president should not be at a rally. He should be in Washington calling Congress together, calling the country together to actually bring forth real solutions to this problem.”
And then there’s the map: Manchester is an easy drive from Massachusetts and Vermont, Trump’s two worst-performing states. By coming to New Hampshire, Trump is all but inviting both his would-be 2020 rivals and angry New England activists to attack.
Is this smart politics?
“Absolutely,” says Republican strategist Mike Dennehy of Pinnacle Strategies. “The suburban voters who would be turned off by all this have already made up their minds about Donald Trump, and that’s not going to change. He needs to come to New Hampshire and fire up the Trump forces, remind them why they support him.”
Former NH House Speaker Bill O’Brien, a GOP candidate for U.S. Senate in 2020, agrees.
“Donald Trump isn’t going to let liberals or the media marginalize him. They don’t want to admit it, but he’s addressed legitimate concerns of New Hampshire voters: concerns about taxes and overregulation, concerns about having a more originalist judiciary. They always want to demonize our party’s most effective leaders, and Trump is coming here in part to fight back.”
“I think it’s a good thing for New Hampshire and for America,” said Retired Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc, also a 2020 GOP US Senate candidate. “It shows he can still move forward and carry out his leadership responsibilities.”
New Hampshire Democrats intend to exploit Trump’s visit as well. “Soon New Hampshire will be invaded by Trumpers,” NH Democratic party chairman Ray Buckley said recently, calling Trump’s upcoming rally “the beginning of what will be will be the most important election of our lives.” Buckley believes that linking local Republicans to Trump is a winner for his party, tweeting out the message “Notice: Will buy photos of Trump with Sununu, repub electeds & or candidates.”
Which raises the question: Even if coming to New Hampshire makes sense for Trump 2020, is it smart politics… for the NHGOP?
Somewhat surprisingly, former GOP state party chairman– and self-declared ‘Never Trumper’– Fergus Cullen thinks it is.
“Right now, the New Hampshire Republican party is getting all of the pain [of the Trump presidency] without the benefit. They’re paying the price for his outrageous comments whether they’re made in El Paso or Ohio. But if he comes here, it at least energizes the potential Trump voters in New Hampshire that the party needs in 2020.
“If you’re going to pay the penance, you might as well commit the sin,” Cullen said.
Former Trump campaign manager (and likely U.S. Senate candidate) Corey Lewandowski was even more blunt:
Anyone who thinks a visit from the leader of the free world to their state will hurt his party is too dumb to be a source for your story,” he told NHJournal. “Name another candidate who can fill the SNHU arena? No one but Donald J. Trump.”