For Donald Trump, home might be a sprawling top floor inside Trump Tower in Manhattan. But his political home in the closing weeks of the presidential campaign appears to be hundreds of miles away — in New Hampshire.
Trump is scheduled to return Saturday to New Hampshire for a rally in Portsmouth, marking his fourth visit to the state in four weeks. But the Granite State has just four votes in the Electoral College (out of the 270 necessary to win), and Trump has never led a general election New Hampshire poll. Ever.
As a result, Republicans and Democrats in New Hampshire are asking the same question: Why does Trump keep coming back?
One answer: He just likes the state. He won the New Hampshire primary in February, kick-starting his campaign through a long nomination battle. Plus, others speculated, it’s an easy commute from New York in a private jet.
But first, to understand just how disproportionate Trump’s time in New Hampshire is compared to other states, consider the national race.
At this point there are four states that will decide the presidential race: Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. All four of those states have a much greater number of Electoral College votes (18, 29, 15, and 20, respectively). Over the last few months, Trump’s campaign has had a legitimate argument that he could win each one of those states.
To be fair, since the general election essentially began in earnest in June, Trump has visited these states more often than New Hampshire — but only by a bit, according to a tally from National Journal. Including his Saturday visit, he will have visited New Hampshire eight times since June, compared to the 11 times he has been to Ohio, the 12 visits to North Carolina, 13 trips to Florida, and 14 trips to Pennsylvania.
But outside of those four states, Trump has campaigned in New Hampshire more than anywhere else in the country. He’s made more frequent campaign visits to New Hampshire than Nevada, Arizona, and Georgia combined. All three of those states have more Electoral College votes, and individual polls of the trio have shown the race within the margin of error for months.
And New Hampshire? Surveys have consistently shown Trump trailing Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire between 7 and 9 percentage points for months. However, the most recent Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll of New Hampshire showed Clinton leading Trump by 2 points.
Mike Biundo, a Trump campaign senior political adviser who lives in New Hampshire, said the nominee’s frequency of visits to the state has been based on the calculation that he can win the state.
“We see the race in New Hampshire pretty tight,” Biundo said. “Unlike other states, New Hampshire is small, [so] grass-roots campaigning and attention to the state can really make a big difference.”
Also worth noting: Trump’s eight visits have dwarfed the pair of visits Clinton has made to the state in the same time period.
In fairness, Clinton has had a large number of surrogates campaigning on her behalf in New Hampshire — sometimes as often as several times every week. They include US Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, as well as Michelle Obama, who appeared in Manchester Thursday where she said Trump’s comments on women “have shaken me to the core.’’
Clinton’s New Hampshire state director, Mike Vlacich, said the national campaign was very focused on the winning the state.
“We are taking nothing for granted with more staff and offices on the ground and more volunteer activity,” he said. “Community-level organizing will be what makes the difference on Election Day.”
There’s another reason Trump might be making relatively frequent visits to New Hampshire. While not in the top tier of swing states, New Hampshire could play an important role in determining who the next president will be.
Among the various Electoral College scenarios, Trump has two probably paths to the presidency: run the table with Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina — or win some combination of states plus New Hampshire.
Those scenarios may have been more relevant when the national race was closer. In the aftermath of 2005 tape of Trump suggesting he sexually assaulted a woman, national polls have shown that Clinton’s lead has grown.
“It is odd that he is spending so much time in the state, since it is not a tipping-point state to the presidency,” said Dante Scala, a University of New Hampshire political science professor. “But in the whole scheme of things, it seems to be such a minor issue.”