Former President Donald Trump plunged back into campaign mode Saturday, stumping in New Hampshire with state Republican Party activists as he hit the road for the first public events of his 2024 bid for the White House.
“We stopped the communists, we stopped the Marxists,” Trump said of his single term in office. “And if we don’t stop them next time, I think this will be the end,” he told 413 party officials gathered at Salem High School in Salem, NH for the state GOP’s annual meeting.
A second campaign appearance Saturday was scheduled for Columbia, South Carolina.
Since declaring in November his plans to run for a second non-consecutive term, Trump has stuck to video-released policy statements — rather than his raucous trademark rallies — to win back the loyalty of Republicans disillusioned by his bombastic style and his fixation on his 2020 loss to President Joe Biden.
The trip to New Hampshire came two days after the respected Granite State poll found Trump trailing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis by 12 points among New Hampshire Republicans — even though the former president remains the GOP’s only announced presidential candidate.
The poll, conducted by the University of New Hampshire, found DeSantis was the choice of 42% of likely GOP primary voters, with Trump at 30% — a difference well outside the sample’s 5.2% margin of error.
“I hear [DeSantis] might want to run against me, so we’ll handle that the way I handle things,” Trump said on Jan. 16, shrugging off a potential challenge from his popular fellow Floridian.
The state’s first-in-the-nation primary status makes it crucial to Trump’s nomination chances. But his popularity there crumbled during his presidency: he lost New Hampshire to Joe Biden by 7 points in 2020, after coming within a single point of beating Hillary Clinton there in 2016.
A host of big-name Republicans, including former veep Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, and others are widely expected to challenge Trump for the GOP nomination — although recent national polls show all of them in the single digits, far behind both DeSantis and Trump in a hypothetical 2024 presidential primary.
An Emerson College poll this week gave Trump a narrow 44% to 41% lead over Biden in a hypothetical 2024 election, while a Biden-DeSantis race would be a toss-up: 40% for the incumbent president, 39% for the Republican rival.
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