New Hampshire ‘Trump fatigue’ complicates 2024 White House bid

WEARE, New Hampshire, Jan 27 (Reuters) – When Donald Trump defeated his Republican opponent in New Hampshire’s 2016 primary, the stunning victory announced the reality TV show to other states. Showrunner is a serious contender. Trump went on to secure the Republican nomination and then the White House.

But as the former president speaks in New Hampshire on Saturday to begin his bid to reclaim the White House by 2024 — his first campaign in an early primary state — he will find the political landscape much smaller than it was six years ago. More dangerous, according to party activists, members and strategists in the state.

Reuters interviewed 10 officials and members of the New Hampshire Republican Party, some of whom worked in Trump’s 2016 primary and who have all been staunch supporters of Trump in the past, and found only three backing him this time. — including the chairman of the state government, an influential Republican figure so enthusiastic about Trump that he will resign on Saturday to help his campaign.

Others expressed exhaustion from Trump’s controversies, anger at the ongoing drama and hope to shake off Trump’s defeat in 2020 with a fresh face they believe is more likely to win in 2024 .

Trump’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

The public displeasure with the former president is a troubling development for Trump. Analysts said the defeat could complicate his chances of winning his party’s presidential nomination because New Hampshire often powers candidates as they travel to other primary states.

A lack of enthusiasm for the former president and the prospect of his victory in 2024 could hurt Trump as party activists do important groundwork for the candidate, such as door knocking and phone calls to raise money and turnout .

A majority of New Hampshire party members who are cool to Trump say they would prefer Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to be the party’s standard bearer, though DeSantis has yet to say whether he will launch a bid for the White House.

“Donald Trump is now distracting the GOP from trying to move forward. Donald Trump has done his lesson,” said Brian Sullivan, 60, a member of the Hillsborough County Republican Committee, He supported Trump in the 2016 primary election.

“I’d rather see someone else in the game, like Ron DeSantis,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said that while he likes Trump’s policies and praises his achievements in office, “he has too much baggage. I don’t think he has what it takes to be in the White House again.”

Three Republicans who still support Trump say his voting base in New Hampshire remains enthusiastic, his popularity and many Republican voters’ liking for his political accomplishments in office give him a strong case The campaign record, which is different from other potential candidates.

The Trump campaign touted January in an email to supporters. The Emerson College poll on the 24th showed the former president leading DeSantis among Republican voters nationally, 55% to 29%.

However, the willingness of Republican members to criticize Trump in conversations with Reuters was striking. Some Republican officials and members who broke with Trump in the past have been countered by Trump supporters and spoofed online.

Lori Davis, 67, entered grassroots Republican politics because of Trump. She was inspired when he announced his candidacy back in 2015. She campaigned for him in the New Hampshire primary, knocking on his door and urging anyone she met to vote for him.

Not this time.

“I like Donald Trump. But he’s gone too far. It’s going to be an uphill battle for him in this primary because he’s divided. People are tired of the drama,” Davis Said while eating a burger at her house.

“I see people wanting DeSantis. He’s got a lot of Trump philosophy, but not that bombastic, he’s not attacking people 24/7. People are tired of that. It’s giving them a headache,” Davis said.

”People want winners”

It’s not just New Hampshire that Trump faces potential headwinds. Some billionaire donors who have funded his previous campaigns have yet to donate. They include hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah Mercer. She has donated to DeSantis’ political committee.

New Hampshire plays a huge role in choosing a presidential candidate, as this is the second nominating contest after the Iowa caucuses.

Although the winner of New Hampshire’s Republican primary hasn’t won the state in a general election since George W. Bush in 2000, it is still seen as a key test in the nominating process.

Chris Maidment, chairman of the Hillsborough County Republican Committee, described the mood of many members as “Trump fatigue,” adding: “I’m definitely open to this one. There’s a lot of exciting potential out there. candidate.”

Most of the candidates Trump supported lost to Democrats in the November congressional elections. During Trump’s four-year presidency after defeating Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016, Republicans lost control of both chambers of Congress before he lost the 2020 election to Democratic rival Joe Biden. .

“People want a winner, and elections are about the future. Republicans want someone who can win and who won’t be a pushover on the left. Trump has represented that before, but I’m not sure he represents that now, said Neal Levesque, executive director of the New Hampshire School of Political Science at St. Anselm College.

A Levesque poll of likely Republican primary voters in New Hampshire ahead of the November election had Trump trailing DeSantis 38 percent to 47 percent. Overall, 50 percent of voters in the state have a “very dislike” impression of Trump, compared to 22 percent who “very much like it.”

Another complicating factor for Trump this time around is that independents can vote in both the Republican and Democratic primary in New Hampshire. If Biden were to run again, the Democratic primary would likely be uncontested, and many independents would likely choose to vote in the Republican primary, where their votes would have more sway.

“Independents are going to go where the action is. A lot of independents are going to vote against Trump. That’s not good news for him,” said Tom Rath, a Republican strategist in New Hampshire.

Polls in New Hampshire and elsewhere show Trump is unpopular with most independents.

Some party strategists say Trump will remain a formidable candidate in the New Hampshire primary despite signs of weariness with Trump.

“He’s still the front-runner in 2023. He has a strong base of support. His leverage is still pretty substantial,” said Jim Merrill, a senior strategist for the New Hampshire Republican Party.

Trump is the only Republican to have declared a candidacy so far, although the number of rivals is likely to increase this year. Other hopefuls include Trump’s former vice president DeSantis, Mike Pence and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.

stick to the real deal

For former state Representative Steve Stepanek, the first elected official in New Hampshire to back Trump in 2015 and chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party, the potential contenders For the most part, these would-be competitors would be pale imitations of the real thing.

He told Reuters he remained a staunch supporter of the former president and was about to step down as party chairman because he wanted to be involved in Trump’s latest campaign.

A replacement will be chosen at Saturday’s party meeting, where Trump will deliver a keynote address. It was unclear whether Stepanek’s departure would loosen Trump’s grip on the party establishment.

Stepanek accused Republican opponents of being GOP insiders rather than ordinary voters who decide the primaries.

“Would you trust a candidate who says I’m going to continue Trump’s policies — or someone with Trump’s policies?”

Reporting by Tim Reid in Weare, NH; Editing by Ross Colvin and Suzanne Goldenberg

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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