‘This is a movement,’ Donald Trump says at Nashua rally
NASHUA — After two protesters chanting "fascist!" were pounced upon by his supporters and escorted out by security, Donald J. Trump returned Monday night to his favorite topic: his wildly successful, pundit-confounding presidential campaign.
"This is a movement," the Republican front-runner said near the end of a speech that lasted more than an hour and appeared to further his support among a largely supportive crowd. "This is a — an unbelievable thing is happening. I don't even use the term 'silent majority,' because they're really a noisy group of people."
With hundreds of people packed into the Pennichuck Middle School gymnasium and more watching in overflow space, Trump stepped up his burgeoning feud with the New Hampshire Union Leader, mocked New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and acknowledged Republicans' demographic challenges with the electorate — but promised to solve them.
"They say the Republicans have a structural problem, and we do," Trump said, adding that positions like expanding gun rights and abolishing Common Core educational requirements would attract new voters.
While much of the speech followed Trump's standard meandering critiques of President Obama, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, and his rival Republicans, Trump also delved into local priorities.
He assured New Hampshire residents that their first-in-the-nation primary would be secure if he were elected, even though the chief executive has no direct authority over party primary calendars.
"New Hampshire will always maintain its place if I win," he said.
Trump placed blame for the state's opioid addiction crisis on illegal immigration.
"You have a heroin problem that's really incredible," he said, adding, "We're going to build a wall."
Outlining what he described as a porous border security system that allows for a flood of criminals into the country, Trump said, "You people know better than anybody, because you're really the recipient of that. They come over with drugs, they go back with cash. Not a good deal."
Trump continued his criticism of Clinton, referring to his assertion last week that she had been "schlonged" during the 2008 Democratic primary by Barack Obama. Trump defended the term, saying it meant only to be beaten badly and nothing crude.
But, he added, "I won't use it again today; we don't want to make that the story.."
With the New Hampshire primary six weeks away, recent polls have showed Trump with a double-digit lead in the state. He frequently mentioned favorable polls and questioned the validity of those that did not reflect the same popularity.
Crowds braved long lines in sub-freezing temperatures and then underwent screening by the Secret Service. Some were turned away due to what officials said were space restrictions.
Like many of Trump's rallies, Monday's was interrupted by protesters. Two young men chanted "fascist!" at Trump, before other crowd members turned on them in a brief physical altercation. They grabbed the dissenters and at least one vocal Trump supporter appeared to strike one of the men.
Security guards escorted the protesters from the gym.
Trump's appearance came hours after he told leading TV station WMUR in a phone interview that the publisher of the Union Leader, the state's largest newspaper, was a "real low-life."
That remark came after a front-page editorial ripping Trump, calling him "a crude blowhard with no clear political philosophy and no deeper understanding of the important and serious role of President of the United States than one of the goons he lets rough up protesters in his crowds."
The paper last month endorsed Christie, who has climbed in recent polling here.
During his remarks Monday night, Trump brandished a copy of the paper, which he referred to as "a pile of garbage," and said he had skipped a Union Leader forum in August because he did not think it "appropriate" for him to attend.
"You have a very dishonest newspaper. It's also a failing newspaper," Trump said.
The publisher, Joseph W. McQuaid, said in an article posted on its website Monday that "Trump's tirade is only surprising in that it took this long."
"After our newspaper endorsed Governor Christie, I expected the full-on 'Loser!' treatment in short order. Trump is a very dishonest man, and also terribly confused, on matters great and small. This is all typical Trump. He tries to bully people who question him or criticize him."
Campaign officials said they have been ramping up the mechanics of getting voters to the polls, starting to make calls from phone banks, collecting cards pledging votes, and planning door-knocking excursions.
State Representative Fred Doucette, a Salem Republican and Trump's state campaign co-chair, brushed aside concerns that Trump is shunning the state's tradition of demanding that candidates practice retail politics, with stops at house parties and small eateries.
"Mr. Trump going into MaryAnn's Diner or any local coffee shop is next to impossible, because you see what's going on here," he said, gesturing to the long lines outside the school.
Not every attendee counted as a Trump supporter. Josh Arnett, a bookstore owner from Springfield, Mo., spending his holidays in New Hampshire, said he had come to the rally "ironically."
"There's no actual policy that I hear," he said of Trump. "It's basically what I would hear from someone commenting on the Internet."
Still, Trump has proved a durable front-runner, particularly in New Hampshire, where even some moderate Republican insiders who oppose his candidacy say they think he will prevail.
Thomas Zajac, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Air Force now living in Merrimack, said Trump reminds him of Moses from the movie "The Ten Commandments," standing in the Red Sea.
"He represents the strength of the United States," Zajac said.