Trump to Court Voters ‘Open to Dating’ Others in Early States
(Bloomberg) – Donald Trump heard people waving his speech as he announced his third presidential bid in November. Major political figures in all-important Iowa will not return his calls. Now he sets out to find some of the ancient magic in New Hampshire and South Carolina.
Not all Republicans in these crucial early primary states jump for a hug.
GOP strategists say the former president will continue to be backed by the hardcore supporters who brought him his first wins in 2016 in New Hampshire and South Carolina.
“He remains a dominant figure, but no longer owned by the Republican Party,” said Tom Rath, the former New Hampshire attorney general who has advised on multiple presidential campaigns. “He’s coming into a very different political environment in New Hampshire than he was used to before.”
Trump is expected to speak at the New Hampshire Republican Party’s annual meeting in Salem on Saturday before traveling to Columbia, South Carolina, for an event with US Senator Lindsey Graham and other officials to deploy his campaign team to the state.
Trump won a crowded 2016 New Hampshire primary with about 35% of the vote and the South Carolina GOP race with 33%.
A University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll released Thursday showed DeSantis leading Trump by 42 percent to 30 percent among the likely primary voters. A South Carolina Policy Council poll of likely GOP voters found that only 37% think the party should nominate Trump in 2024. In a head-to-head match, DeSantis bested Trump 52% to 33%.
Still, former New Hampshire GOP chairman Fergus Cullen says the devotion of Trump’s staunch supporters shouldn’t be underestimated. In a crowded field, Trump may need just a third of the vote to win the New Hampshire primary again.
“His supporters are open to dating someone else, but it’s not like they really want to leave him,” Cullen said.
opposition to Trump
Trump has the support of about a third of South Carolina’s GOP voters, estimates Katon Dawson, a former state GOP chairman. That might be enough to win a crowded primary, but there’s room for another candidate to strip support, he warned.
Dawson supports Nikki Haley when she runs. Haley would be an excellent candidate in South Carolina as a popular former governor who also served as a UN ambassador under Trump. She said in 2021 that she would not run if Trump did, but has since said she is seriously considering running for 2024.
“There is a feeling that Donald Trump is not going to just announce and push through the nomination without opposition at this point,” said Robert Oldendick, professor emeritus of political science at the University of South Carolina at Columbia.
Other Republicans considering 2024 bids include former Vice President Mike Pence; former Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, who published a book this week; former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, who attended this week’s Republican National Committee meeting in California; and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, who, according to a spokesman, will not be attending Trump’s event because of a previously planned engagement.
Trump launched his third run for the White House on November 15, expecting he would benefit from a Republican “red wave” in the midterm elections. Instead, he was widely blamed for the GOP’s disappointing results as his handpicked candidates lost key races. He did not follow up his announcement with any major campaign events outside of Florida.
READ ALSO: Trump Support Is A ‘Kiss Of Death’ As Republican Criticism Grows
In a Jan. 19 post on Truth Social, Trump acknowledged his campaign is seen as lackluster but said the election was “a long time away” and promised “LOTS OF HUGE SALES and other events happening soon.”
Trump has released policy videos on immigration and other issues, including one calling for new restrictions on Chinese ownership of US infrastructure, farmland and other assets.
Carl Broggi, the senior pastor of Community Bible Church in Beaufort, South Carolina, said Trump’s support among evangelical voters in the state remains strong after he benched three new Supreme Court justices and recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital have.
But Broggi said Trump wasn’t as firm as DeSantis on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity and hurt his reputation when he said in an interview that some evangelical leaders were disloyal for not immediately supporting him.
Trump also blamed part of the midterm results on anti-abortion activists, who “could have fought a lot harder during the election” for Republicans.
“I honestly think if DeSantis ran, he could potentially remove Trump from first place,” Broggi said.
©2023 Bloomberg LP