Donald Trump during this Saturday’s performance in New Hampshire Reba Saldanha (AP)
Donald Trump left his Mar-a-Lago hideout this Saturday to participate in two acts before his own in the states of New Hampshire and South Carolina, the first of his third campaign toward the White House, which he hopes to regain in 2024.
For the North, he kicked off with a rally in Salem, New Hampshire, at noon (EST) at which he was more relaxed than when he tensedly announced his admittedly early presidential ambitions on Nov. 15. Since then, the tycoon has been unseen, harassed by pending cases, and increasingly isolated inside and outside his party, beyond the confines of the farm where he lives in Palm Beach, Fla.
The 437 Republican leaders and supporters attending the formation’s state convention in Salem had their share of pure Trump, who at times flirted with breaking into the stand-up comedy profession. He spoke about President Joe Biden and the troubles with his son Hunter’s laptop (“what was in it,” Joe asked him. “All the crimes you’ve committed, Dad”) and the war in Ukraine (“my personality held up they far from the war”). He also devoted himself fully to one of his favorite hobbies: throwing flowers during his presidency (2017-2021): “We stopped the communists, we stopped the Marxists,” Trump said of his single term “And next time, if we don’t stop them, I think this will be the end.”
His return to public life this weekend can be interpreted as an attempt to reignite the momentum of a campaign born weary and clumsy moving after the Republicans’ failure in last November’s midterm elections. In them, they failed to retake the Senate, had to settle for a slim majority in Congress, and blamed the (too extreme and inexperienced) influence of the former president in nominating candidates, many of whom in his ranks were finite dare to dismiss as “serial losers”.
Among the skeptics is New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, who is considered a possible candidate for the 2024 Republican nomination and is very critical of Trump. He argued in December that he “is no longer the influence he thinks he is” and that the Republican Party is “moving away” from him.
Inaccessible to the stubborn reality, he responded to this criticism by speaking of himself in the third person (another weakness) during his speech in Salem Saturday: “They say he doesn’t hold rallies, he doesn’t campaign, maybe he’s lost his punch, but what they don’t know is that I’m more angry and committed now. [con la victoria] never”.
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Trump did not leave the choice of backdrops for his umpteenth resurrection to chance. New Hampshire is where the first party primaries are held to choose their nominee (they arrive within days of the quaint Iowa caucuses being organized). Democrats want to change that order in the interest of greater accuracy between what comes out of New Hampshire, a state that doesn’t reflect the country’s diversity, and the bottom line. The idea is to prioritize South Carolina, the second stop on Trump’s Super Saturday. Republicans have no plans to disrupt that order.
After Columbia, the capital of a state that prides itself on being the first Southerner to vote for president, the tycoon flew to New Hampshire to address his convention that afternoon.
New Hampshire is a country full of fond memories for Trump, who won the 2016 primary when the mere thought that he would end up in the White House seemed like an impossible joke. He then lost State to Hillary Clinton by just under a point (seven separated him from Joe Biden in 2020). In Salem this Saturday he announced the appointment of Stephen Stepanek as senior advisor to his campaign. Stepanek was instrumental in helping him conquer the Granite State, as this little corner of the country’s northeast coast is popularly known, six years ago.
It looks a lot harder this time than it did then. Despite the fact that Trump is the only one to have publicly announced his candidacy for the presidency in either party, there are already names in his that sound strong to contest the position. The most successful proponent of an alternative to date is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a man of wild ambition and a ruthless manner who is often described by his opponents as “Trump with brains and temperament”.
The trip to New Hampshire comes two days after a University of New Hampshire poll placed Trump 12 points behind Florida’s governor among New Hampshire Republicans.
Other possible Republican opponents could include former Vice President Mike Pence, who was in hot water this week when it was revealed he was keeping classified documents at his Indiana home; Glenn Youngkin, Governor of Virginia, who has been in office for a year and has his credentials as a culture warrior intact; and Nikki Haley, who served as South Carolina’s governor from 2011 to 2017 and later served as President’s Ambassador to the United Nations under Trump. Haley was not expected at the Trump event this Saturday afternoon.
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