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Trump hits the trail again, eager to show he’s still GOP King Kong

For months, Trump has been hiding at his Palm Beach resort, where he’s been hosting parties, sending missives to his Truth Social social media site, playing golf and charting his next steps.

When he reappeared on Saturday, flying to New Hampshire aboard his rehabilitated Trump-branded 757 plane, he was determined to present himself as a candidate who still has the star power that catapulted him to the White House. in 2016, and again could evict a full field of Republican challengers.

“They said ‘he doesn’t do rallies, he doesn’t campaign. Maybe he’s lost his step,’ Trump said at a New Hampshire Republican Party meeting. angry now and I’m more engaged now than I’ve ever been.”

Unlike in 2020, when he ran for president unopposed, Trump should have a field of Republican challengers to face this time around, beyond Haley. In anticipation of a crowded field, the Trump campaign compiled research on different potential candidates, according to an adviser. But Trump himself has brushed aside concerns that he may not get the nomination. “I don’t think we have competition this time either, to be honest,” he said.

At the New Hampshire GOP meeting, Trump announced that incumbent New Hampshire GOP Chairman Stephen Stepanek would help oversee his campaign in the nation’s first primary state.

And later in the day, during an appearance at the South Carolina State House, Trump is expected to announce endorsements from close ally and occasional golf buddy, Sen. Lindsey Grahamand Republican Governor Henry McMaster – a notable show of political strength in Haley’s home state.

But Republican activists in New Hampshire are clearly divided. As Stepanek joins the Trump campaign, outgoing Vice President Pamela Tucker was recruiting volunteers for Ron to the Rescue, a super PAC formed after midterms to boost Florida Governor Ron DeSantis if he runs for president.

“We are not never-Trumpers. We are people who supported Trump. We love Trump. But we also know, more importantly, that we have to win. And Ron DeSantis has proven it time and time again now that he can win elections,” Tucker said in an interview.

Matt Mayberry, a former congressional candidate and former New Hampshire GOP vice chairman who backed Trump and attended rallies with him in the state, said he was not yet taking sides in the still-forming primary. .

“Let them all come,” he said.

Walter Stapleton, a GOP state representative from Claremont, sat toward the back of the auditorium wearing a Trump hat. But he said he too was undecided about who he would support in 2024.

“We need to put a candidate out there who can win and maybe attract some of the independents and some of the voters across the aisle. I think DeSantis is the runner for that,” Stapleton said. “But I’m still ready to see if Trump will change tack…and find it more balanced and more reasonable.”

During his speech in New Hampshire, Trump passed out red meat to a friendly crowd. The crowd cheered when he said that, if elected, he would “eliminate federal funding for any school that champions critical race theory or left-wing gender ideology” and support “election direct control of school principals by parents”.

His speech in New Hampshire echoed the policy prescriptions he has issued in recent weeks in the form of video addresses, on issues such as education and Social Security and insurance protection. -illness. His team saw those statements as a way to get back on the political stage without having to hold the signature rallies that defined Trump’s previous offerings.

Saturday, however, was all about preparing for life back on the track. The day comes as Trump dipped in recent polls in New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Despite those polls, Trump — the only declared candidate — consistently leads national polls against a group of potential challengers, including DeSantis, his former vice president Mike Pence and former cabinet members including Mike Pompeo and Haley.

Trump was joined on Saturday by familiar faces from his time in the White House, including social media guru Dan Scavino, political director Brian Jack and Jason Miller, as well as his campaign’s new top lieutenants, Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita. . The campaign has grown in recent months with a series of new hires and the establishment of campaign headquarters in West Palm Beach, Fla., not far from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home.

In addition to staff at Trump’s ally Save America PAC, about 40 people work on Trump’s campaign, according to multiple advisers.

There’s a push for the campaign to be more rambling than it was in 2020, when a massive operation operated out of a sleek office building in Arlington, Virginia. And that philosophy, according to an adviser, extends to how Trump will approach fundraising with an emphasis on small dollar donations rather than large donor events.

The Trump campaign will still work with longtime adviser Brad Parscale, Nucleus, to deliver emails, and his GOP colleague, Gary Coby, continues to handle digital communications for the campaign, such as text messaging. But the campaign is also working with a brand new provider in 2020 – Campaign Inbox – to help with digital fundraising.

Trump and his team seemed eager on Saturday to return to the turmoil of his time in the White House, and there were signs he had stuck to his old habits. Following Trump on the plane on Saturday were his aides — Natalie Harp, the young OAN anchor turned aide, and Walt Nauta, who carried a giant stack of newspapers on board for Trump to read during the flight. Margo Martin, a former White House press secretary who has worked for Trump in Florida since his 2020 defeat, watched from the tarmac as Trump boarded the plane with a wave.

“We need a president who’s ready to go from day one, and I’m getting started,” Trump said later that day.

Lisa Kashinsky contributed reporting from New Hampshire.

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