MANCHESTER, N.H. — President Donald Trump is planning a much-anticipated return to the Granite State to campaign for the 2020 nomination for the Republican party.
“It’s long overdue, we’ve been waiting,” state Rep. Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry, said.
Baldasaro, a former co-chairman for the 2016 New Hampshire Trump campaign, said he is looking forward to the upcoming campaign, too.
“It will motivate the troops,” Baldasaro said, adding that there already are a few Trump campaign staffers working in New Hampshire.
Trump's rally is scheduled at the Southern New Hampshire University Arena in Manchester at 7 p.m., Thursday. The venue can accommodate crowds of up to nearly 12,000 people, according to its website.
“No matter what we do, it's going to be big,” said state Rep. Fred Doucette, R-Salem, another Trump New Hampshire campaign co-chairman in the 2016 election.
Baldasaro and Doucette praised the economy — citing more jobs and business being attracted to the state, and held it up as proof of the president's competency.
“It’s refreshing to have a politician live up to what he said he is going to do,” Doucette said, adding that he knows Trump personally. “I’m a kid from Lawrence and my B.S. meter doesn’t lie. And he was telling me the truth.”
The Trump campaign sent a similar message in an email statement.
“President Trump looks forward to returning to the Granite State to share his message of ‘Promises Made, Promises Kept,’” Sarah Matthews, deputy press secretary for the campaign, wrote in the statement.
“The New Hampshire economy is roaring in the Trump economy with one of the lowest unemployment rates in the entire nation at 2.5% – the lowest it’s been since 1988," according to the statement. "Furthermore, President Trump is turning the tide on the opioid epidemic and will keep fighting to end this scourge affecting New Hampshire families and communities. We are confident that President Trump will win the states he won in 2016 and add even more to his column in 2020, New Hampshire included.”
Currently Trump has high favorability among Republican voters in the state, according to recent polling by the University of New Hampshire. Its July poll had Trump winning over declared challenger William Weld with 86% of the vote.
UNH political science professor Dante Scala said given his considerable lead, Trump's visit is likely aimed at mobilizing the masses for the general election.
“Typically for sitting presidents the norm would be to stay out of New Hampshire. They would want to appear to be above the primary," Scala said. "In a normal election a sitting president would come to a state like New Hampshire — with a great economy and low unemployment rate — take credit and go home.”
This time, Scala said, that's up in the air.
“I’m not sure the president will do that," he said. "It will be interesting to see what the takeaway is (Thursday). Revving up the base is one thing, but I expect there are lots of swing voters who are happy with the economy, but not happy with the president’s rhetoric.”
In 2016, the Republican Presidential Primary field was crowded with 17 candidates.
“It was much like the clown car of Democrats now — but (the Republicans) were all solid — and no one gave this outsider a snowball’s chance,” said Doucette.
The political outsider — Trump — ended up winning the Granite State’s primary election in 2016 with 35 percent of the vote. That momentum went on to win him the nomination and the presidential election.
“It started here in New Hampshire,” Doucette said.
Now it’s “enlightening to see people reaching out to get involved,” Doucette said. He said about 200 people volunteered to assist with logistics for the Manchester event.
“People have never been this engaged or informed about politics. Back in the day we had to wait for 6 o'clock to find out about the news of the day. Now it’s a 24/7 cycle. We get information as it happens," he said.
“The president’s Twitter account speaks to that. … We all get the same information at the same time whether you like (the medium) or not,” Doucette said.
He sees that direct link to politicians as a plus, getting more people engaged in the issues.
Democrats are also seeing momentum, but generated from voters who don’t like the president’s rhetoric and policies, said Mindi Messmer, a Democrat and former state representative from Rye.
Messmer is organizing a protest at the president’s event.
“We are concerned about the events in recent weeks and the level of violence and the messaging,” Messmer said, alluding to the three deadly mass shootings — in El Paso, Texas, Dayton, Ohio, and Gilroy, Calif.
Thursday’s protest “is a moment to show our solidarity against what’s happening. We have the right to say we don’t agree with it,” Messmer said. “I hope and think that we will see a turnout similar to 2018: You have to vote, that’s your say in the matter.”
The Facebook event created for the protest shows more than 1,000 people saying they are “interested,” and many sign-making parties have sprouted from the event, Messmer said.
She added that the Democratic candidates campaigning in the state for the primary are helping make people think about the issues.
“We have a lot of candidates with a lot of viewpoints on the issues, and it’s a healthy process,” Messmer said.
In November 2016, Trump lost New Hampshire by 2,732 votes to Hillary Clinton, according to the Associated Press.
The Trump campaign is banking on New Hampshire reprising its role as a swing state, both Doucette and Baldasaro said. That could also bring momentum in other races, such as the 2020 U.S. Senate involving incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat.
Two Republicans — retired brigadier Gen. Donald Buldoc and former House Speaker Bill O'Brien — already have announced their campaigns.
Both Doucette and Baldasaro said that a new voter identification law — HB 1264 — hopefully could make the races even tighter.
The bill redefines who can vote in the state of New Hampshire, saying that a person must be a permanent resident of the state. Permanent residents of the state must register their cars in New Hampshire and obtain a New Hampshire license if they own or operate a car.
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire has filed a lawsuit against the state because of the law, saying it creates a “poll tax” for people, especially college students, who are eligible to vote in the state where they go to school.
Both Doucette and Baldasaro served in the military and recalled voting by absentee ballot in the state they resided in, which they said college students should do.
“If you are going to vote in the 603, I expect you to live in the 603,” Doucette said. “The voice of the people in the state should be reflected in the results.”