(Bloomberg) – Donald Trump has said he is “more engaged” than ever in his bid to reclaim the presidency, as he seeks to reinvigorate voters in early primary states in New Hampshire and South Carolina.
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“They said, ‘He doesn’t campaign’… ‘He doesn’t do rallies’… ‘Maybe he lost that step,’” Trump said in a speech Saturday at the Republican Party’s annual meeting. New Hampshire to Salem. “I’m angrier now and more engaged now than I’ve ever been.”
Trump’s 2024 candidacy got off to a rocky start as people drowned out his speech when he announced his third presidential run in November and called his campaign launch lackluster. Key political figures in the all-important Iowa will also not be returning his calls.
Trump’s visits on Saturday sought to find some of that old magic in two crucial early primary states.
In New Hampshire, he announced that incumbent GOP Chairman Stephen Stepanek would be his senior campaign adviser there. Later, at a rally in Columbia, South Carolina, Trump unveiled his campaign team for that state, which includes U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, Governor Henry McMaster, Lt. Governor Pamela Evette and U.S. Representatives Joe Wilson, Russell Fry and William Timmons.
Graham said in brief remarks to a small crowd at the state capitol that Trump “did it once, he can do it again,” and he praised the former president’s foreign policy accomplishments. during his tenure.
“We live in a dangerous world right now,” Graham said. “The good news for the Republican Party, there’s a lot of talented people for years to come, but there’s only one Donald Trump. And I’m saying this sincerely, you can talk about his politics, but you couldn’t do what he did.
Not all Republicans in New Hampshire and South Carolina are rushing for a hug from Trump.
GOP strategists say the former president is maintaining support among the die-hard supporters who gave him primary victories in those two states in 2016, but there are signs voters may prefer alternatives such as Florida governor. Ron DeSantis, who should largely enter the race.
“He remains a dominant figure, but is no longer in the possession of the Republican Party,” said Tom Rath, the former New Hampshire attorney general who has advised several presidential campaigns. “He arrives in a very different political environment in New Hampshire than he was used to before.”
Trump won a crowded New Hampshire primary in 2016 with about 35% of the vote and South Carolina’s GOP race with 33%.
A poll from the University of New Hampshire Center for Inquiry released Thursday showed DeSantis leading Trump 42% to 30% among likely primary voters. A survey of likely GOP voters by the South Carolina Policy Council found that only 37% think the party should nominate Trump in 2024. In a head-to-head matchup, DeSantis edged Trump 52% to 33%. .
Still, former New Hampshire GOP Chairman Fergus Cullen said the dedication of staunch Trump supporters should not be underestimated. In a crowded field, Trump may only need a third of the vote to win the New Hampshire primary again.
“His followers are open to dating someone else, but it’s not like they’re really looking to dump him,” Cullen said.
Resistance to Trump
Trump has the support of about a third of South Carolina GOP voters, estimates Katon Dawson, the state’s former GOP chairman. That might be enough to win a crowded primary, but there is room for another candidate to withdraw support, he warned.
Dawson supports Nikki Haley if she runs. Haley would be a formidable candidate in South Carolina as a popular former governor, who also served as an ambassador to the UN under Trump. She said in 2021 she would not run if Trump did, but has since said she is seriously considering a 2024 bid.
“There’s this feeling that at this point Donald Trump is not going to just announce and have the nomination without any resistance,” said Robert Oldendick, professor emeritus of political science at the University of South Carolina at Columbia.
Other Republicans considering 2024 nominations include former Vice President Mike Pence; former Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, who published a book this week; former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, who attended this week’s Republican National Committee meeting in California; and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, who did not attend Saturday’s event. A spokesperson for Scott said the senator had a previously scheduled engagement.
Trump launched his third White House bid expecting to capitalize on a Republican “red wave” in the midterm elections. Instead, he was largely blamed for disappointing GOP results when his hand-picked candidates lost key races. He did not follow his announcement with any major campaign events outside of Florida.
Read more: Trump’s support is a ‘kiss of death’ as Republican criticism grows
In a Jan. 19 article on Truth Social, Trump acknowledged his campaign was seen as lackluster, but said the election was still “a long time away” and promised “LOTS OF GIANT RALLIES and other events to come.”
Carl Broggi, the senior pastor of Community Bible Church in Beaufort, South Carolina, said support for Trump among evangelical voters in the state remains strong after appointing three new Supreme Court justices and recognizing Jerusalem as a capital of Israel.
But Broggi said Trump had not been as strong as DeSantis on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity and hurt his position when he said in an interview that some evangelical leaders were disloyal for not not have immediately supported him.
“I honestly think that if DeSantis showed up, he could potentially take Trump out of the top spot,” Broggi said.
(Updates with the South Carolina rally starting in the fifth paragraph.)
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