The last time Donald Trump was in New Hampshire, he delivered a rousing victory speech. His resounding victory in the first primary state, after a surprising loss in the Iowa caucus, launched him to legitimacy and ultimately to the nomination. And it sent a message to the naysayers who underestimated his strength.
Now, he’s gearing up for what he hopes will be a blockbuster sequel: Trump Takes New Hampshire, Part Two.
Trump is scheduled to return to New Hampshire on Monday, to kick off the general election in earnest with what he said will be a major speech in Manchester.
“New Hampshire is the home of my first victory and the people are amazing,” Trump said in a statement to the Globe. “I greatly look forward to returning on Monday for my highly anticipated speech.”
Trump’s trip to the Granite State comes just after the attack in Orlando. Late Sunday night, Trump canceled a Monday night rally in Portsmouth “due to the horrific tragedy that has just taken place in Orlando.” And what had once been billed as a blistering attack on Hillary and Bill Clinton was described Sunday by the Trump campaign as a “major speech to further address this terrorist attack, immigration, and national security.”
The visit comes amid a flurry of intraparty fighting that broke out over the past few days. During Mitt Romney’s annual summit in Utah, Hewlett-Packard chief executive Meg Whitman reportedly compared Trump to Adolf Hitler.
Romney, in an interview with CNN, warned of Trump’s “trickle-down racism and trickle-down bigotry and trickle-down misogyny.’’
“I’m not sure he knows what a misogynist is,” Trump responded. “I am the least racist person that you have ever seen.”
New Hampshire has gone for Democrats in five of the last six presidential elections — and its four electoral votes are unlikely to swing the election. But the campaign is hoping to compete in states that have been Democratic strongholds, banking that his support among white working-class voters will open up such states as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Trump’s team says it may attempt to compete in Massachusetts, pointing to packed crowds in Worcester and Lowell before the Bay State primary. His campaign has also hired a pollster in New York.
For Trump himself, and many members of his campaign, New Hampshire also resonates personally.
“It should not be lost that the speech is being conducted in the state of New Hampshire,” said Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who lives in Windham, N.H. “We’re going to be there a lot leading up to the general election.”
In a crowded field in the February primary, Trump got 35 percent of the vote — 20 points more than his nearest competitor.
Some Republicans worry that Trump is running a Don Quixote-like campaign, chasing mirages in the distance. And to longtime political observers — some of whom have been wrong about Trump all along — the notion of Trump’s winning New Hampshire is far-fetched.
New Hampshire last voted for a Republican president in 2000, when George W. Bush narrowly beat Al Gore. But Obama defeated John McCain by nearly 10 percentage points in 2008 and beat Mitt Romney by nearly six points in 2012.
“It’s completely preposterous that Trump is going to make New Hampshire competitive,” said Fergus Cullen, a former New Hampshire GOP chairman.
Tom Rath, a longtime New Hampshire-based Republican operative who was a top adviser to John Kasich, predicted Clinton would win. “I don’t sense a lot of institutional support for him,” he said.
Two recent polls, both conducted last month, found Trump and Clinton in a statistical tie among New Hampshire voters. The polls also show that two-thirds of voters view both of them unfavorably. Trump does much better among men, while Clinton does far better among women.
One of the top issues for New Hampshire residents is the economy, which could help Trump.
“You really can’t drive through any town in New Hampshire with 2,500 people and not see an abandoned factory,” said Dave Carney, a veteran Republican consultant from New Hampshire. “He has broad appeal. He has the hard-core conservatives and more establishment guys. I think it’s very possible he could win New Hampshire.”
Trump’s campaign is planning to appeal to the same supporters who were drawn to Senator Bernie Sanders, with a similar populist message.
New Hampshire has delivered mixed results for the Clintons: Bill Clinton was deemed the “comeback kid” with a surprising finish in the 1992 primary; he twice won the general election there; and Hillary Clinton won the 2008 primary.
But it was the scene of one Hillary Clinton’s most disappointing performances this year. Sanders soundly defeated her — 60 percent to 38 percent. If the Vermont senator doesn’t fully back Clinton, it could make the state a tougher climb.
Compared with other swing states, New Hampshire is relatively inexpensive.
Priorities USA Action, a Super PAC supporting Clinton, has reserved 117 ads on WMUR, spending some $422,000, on an ad that criticizes Trump for mocking a disabled New York Times reporter. The ad, called “Grace,” features the parents of a young girl talking about her disability.
“The children at Grace’s school all know never to mock her, and so for an adult to mock someone with a disability is shocking,” says the girl’s mother.
“When I saw Donald Trump mock somebody with a disability it showed me his soul, it showed me his heart,” adds her father.
Trump has said that he wasn’t mocking the reporter himself, he was just speaking expressively. “I would never mock a person that has difficulty,” he said when the controversy erupted in November.
Just as Clinton has a larger staff nationally, Trump appears to be outnumbered in New Hampshire.
On a weekday last week, a Globe reporter found that Trump’s state headquarters was locked, with windows covered in paper, and a note for visitors to call for access. A few miles away, Clinton’s office had five full-time staffers.
But in addition to Lewandowski, Trump has several New Hampshire-based staffers who were hired early and have remained on the payroll. They include his state director, Matt Ciepielowski, and deputy state director Andrew Georgevits.
“It’s the state that gave us the first victory. It set us on the path. It really proves the naysayers wrong,” Lewandowski said. “He won by 20 points. He won every county, he won a majority of the municipalities. It wasn’t close. It was decisive.”
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.