President Trump, per usual, uttered quite a few astonishing soundbites during his 90-minute rally Thursday night in Manchester, N.H.
But he was stirring controversy before he even reached New Hampshire. Speaking to reporters earlier that day as he left his New Jersey golf club, Trump revived an unfounded conspiracy theory that he would have won New Hampshire in 2016 but for buses full of out-of-state voters who illegally cast ballots.
“Thousands and thousands of people coming in from locations unknown. But I knew where the location was,” Trump said.
Sound familiar? Trump dwelled on these unsubstantiated claims for some time early in his presidency. More specifically, he repeatedly accused thousands of Massachusetts residents from boarding buses and hitting the polls in New Hampshire, costing him the swing state’s four electoral votes in 2016 — and also causing former senator Kelly Ayotte, a Republican, to lose her reelection.
Trump and his allies provided zero proof for their claims. He lost New Hampshire to Hillary Clinton by about 3,000 votes.
The president seemed to have these phantasmal voters on his mind during his Thursday evening rally, too — his first in the state for his reelection campaign.
As he replayed his unexpected 2016 wins — a centerpiece of his rally repertoire — he told the boisterous crowd, “I hate to tell you, we should have won New Hampshire. That was taken away. . . . We should have won New Hampshire, but that’s OK. I’m not holding it against you because it was not your fault.”
The New Hampshire secretary of state’s office said it has the same response to Trump’s accusations as it did when he first raised them: Um, no.
“We don’t see any widespread, organized efforts” to carry out voter fraud in the state, deputy secretary of state David Scanlan said. It has transpired in isolated, individual circumstances, “but nothing on the scale of illegal voters on buses coming into New Hampshire.”