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Trump Actually Starts Campaigning

Donald Trump announced his third presidential run 2½ months ago. After that—crickets, Normally after an announcement, candidates start holding rallies, doing interviews with friendly media outlets, flying around the country talking to donors, and more. Trump had dinner with a couple of antisemites and that was about it. What was he waiting for? Maybe for his old rust-bucket Boeing 757 to be patched up so it could fly again?

It would seem the maintenance is complete, and so on Saturday Trump got off his couch, hopped on the 757, flew to New Hampshire, and stood on the stump (well, indoors, given that it is January). He gave the keynote speech at the annual state Republican meeting in Salem, NH. It was a bitter speech, filled with lies. He not only claimed that he won in 2020, but that foreign leaders agreed with him. He also said that every day in Joe Biden's America is a cruel April Fools Day joke. Trump also attacked Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) head on, saying he was a COVID-19 skeptic phony. That is, DeSantis didn't ignore the pandemic enough. Florida was third in COVID-19 deaths with 84,605. Maybe if DeSantis had pooh-poohed it more, it could have passed Texas (93,025 deaths) and made it into second place. If this is a preview of the stump speech Trump will give hundreds of times in the next year or two, it's going to be a very toxic campaign.

Nevertheless—or maybe on account of his speech—the crowd of party activists applauded. But not every top Republican in New Hampshire was there. The former state GOP chairman, Steve Duprey, wasn't and he later told a reporter that it was time for a change. Former New Hampshire AG Tom Rath was even more blunt. He said: "I think we've got to rid ourselves with this disease and move forward and listen to what the electorate is telling us. That kind of extremism and sort of almost hero worship is not conducive to having a government that produces the results that benefit the way people live." Last year, Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH) said of Trump: "He's done his time. He's done his service. We're moving on."

In short, New Hampshire Republicans are divided and Trump is by no means guaranteed a win the New Hampshire primary, whenever it may be held (see below). In fact, yesterday Sununu said: "He could win, I don't think he will." In 2016, Trump came in first in the New Hampshire primary with 35% of the vote. John Kasich got 16% and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was third with 12%. In the Nov. 2016 general election, Hillary Clinton beat Trump by 0.4%. In the 2020 New Hampshire primary, Trump crushed Bill Weld 84% to 9%, but lost the general election to Joe Biden 53% to 45%.

After Trump was finished with New Hampshire, he went to the South Carolina state capitol where he introduced his South Carolina team, which includes Gov. Henry McMaster (R-SC) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Many South Carolina lawmakers were present but many others were not, citing "other commitments." Presumably, some of them had to wash their hair.

As in New Hampshire, a Trump victory in the South Carolina Republican primary is not a done deal. A poll from Spry Strategies released last week shows that only 37% of state Republicans want Trump to run again with 47% preferring someone else. In a head-to-head poll with DeSantis, Republican voters in South Carolina picked DeSantis over Trump by a margin of 52% to 33%. However, a Trafalgar Group poll released Friday that pitted Trump and DeSantis against Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), Nikki Haley, and the Mikes P. had Trump first at 43%. Then came DeSantis (28%), Scott (14%), Haley (12%), Pence (2%), and Pompeo (1%). But Scott and Haley are both from South Carolina and have won statewide elections there, so their presence greatly distorts the field. They won't do nearly so well anywhere else. (V)

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