MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) – Eager to put on a show of force in a general election battleground state, President Donald Trump aimed to rattle Democrats on Monday with a rally in New Hampshire on the eve of the state’s first-in-the-nation primaries.
Trump, on a high after his acquittal last week on impeachment charges, couldn’t resist taking a dig at the Democrats for lingering uncertainty over the outcome of the party’s kickoff caucuses last week in Iowa, where the results are still under dispute.
â€œWill be in Manchester, New Hampshire, tonight for a big Rally. Want to shake up the Dems a little bit – they have a really boring deal going on,â€ Trump tweeted. â€œStill waiting for the Iowa results, votes were fried. Big crowds in Manchester!â€
It’s a tried-and-tested tactic for Trump: Scheduling counter-programming to divert attention from Democratic debates and other major moments, keeping him in the spotlight and building supporters’ enthusiasm in the months before Election Day.
And though it wonâ€™t be the same show of force as last week, when dozens of Trump’s surrogates, including officials from across all levels of government, flooded the state of Iowa, the Trump campaign made its presence known in New Hampshire before the state’s Democratic primaries.
Vice President Mike Pence and Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and senior adviser, got to the state ahead of the president to do some campaigning.
Also being deployed by the presidentâ€™s re-election campaign were Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and Rand Paul, House Republican Whip Steve Scalise, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu and Trumpâ€™s former campaign manager, New Hampshire resident Corey Lewandowski.
The marquee event was to be Trump’s rally, held in front of a massive crowd at a downtown arena. Images of bundled-up supporters camped outside the SNHU Arena in Manchester as early as Sunday broke through the news coverage of the Democratic primary. As Air Force One touched down in New Hampshire, a stream of TrumpWorld luminaries – including Vice President Mike Pence and first son Donald Trump Jr. – preceded the president to the stage.
New Hampshire has always loomed large in Trumpâ€™s political lore as the first nominating contest he won during 2016’s heated Republican primaries. He was about to take the stage at a rally in Manchester that October when news broke that the FBI was re-opening its investigation into Democrat Hillary Clintonâ€™s emails, breathing new life into his then-struggling campaign. And it was the site of the penultimate rally of the 2016 contest – an extravagant send-off just hours before a post-midnight rally in Michigan.
Though Trump narrowly lost New Hampshire in the general election four years ago, his team believes it is one of the few states that could flip to red in November. Democrats in the state had a different view.
â€œItâ€™s obvious that Trump and the RNC are desperate to put New Hampshire in play after losing the state by 3,000 votes in 2016. But weâ€™ll make sure that Granite Staters know that he has broken his promises to his state and he will lose here again in November,â€ New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley told reporters.
The president relished the idea of dominating the stage in New Hampshire and stealing some of the media oxygen from the Democrats. Advisers hoped that Secret Service moves in downtown Manchester to secure the area for the presidentâ€™s arrival would make it harder for Democratic candidates and their supporters to transverse the stateâ€™s largest city in the hours before the primaryâ€™s first votes are cast.
At least for now, similar counter-programming rallies have not been planned for the next two nominating states, Nevada and South Carolina. But the Manchester rally comes days after Trump was acquitted by the Senate after becoming just the third president in U.S. history to be impeached. Before his departure, Trump was still stewing at Democrats as well as Sen. Mitt Romney, the lone Republican to vote to convict him.
At a White House meeting with more than 30 governors from around the country, he slammed Democrats for â€œwasting timeâ€ on impeachment and teasingly asked Utah Gov. Gary Herbert: â€œHowâ€™s Mitt Romney? You can keep him. We don’t want him.â€
With his reelection effort heating up, Trump also suggested heâ€™s trying to turn the page and notch a couple of legislative victories before November.
The president said he was hopeful that Democrats would work with him to pass an infrastructure bill as well legislation to lower prescription drug prices, despite the rancor and divisions.
Associated Press writers Aamer Madhani in Washington and Holly Ramer in Manchester contributed to this report.