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Opinion: Why Trump is returning to the Granite State

Michael Graham

Manchester, N.H. — President Donald Trump is bringing his “Make American Great Again” campaign to Portsmouth, N.H., on Saturday, bolstering a close adviser’s claim that “dollar for dollar, New Hampshire is the best investment the campaign can make.”

It will also be the first Trump rally at which the campaign is “strongly encouraging” mask-wearing by attendees.

Saturday’s stop will be Trump’s fourth visit to the Granite State since taking office, and his second this year alone. That’s an unusual amount of attention for a state with just four Electoral College votes, and that Republican presidential candidates have carried just once since 1992 (George W. Bush in 2000). It reflects the president’s personal ties with the Granite State — the site of his first-ever political victory, in the 2016 GOP primary.

An upcoming New Hampshire Trump rally will be the first at which the campaign is “strongly encouraging” mask wearing by attendees, Graham writes.

“President Trump’s record-setting accomplishments in record-setting time have improved the lives of all Americans. He rebuilt, restored and renewed our great nation once, and he’ll do it again,” Hogan Gidley, Trump 2020 national press secretary, said in a statement. “We look forward to so many freedom-loving patriots coming to the rally and celebrating America, the greatest country in the history of the world.”

In a shift from previous Trump events, the campaign is providing face masks to attendees and “strongly encouraging” their wear. Before his rally in Tulsa, Okla., last month Trump had notably refused to endorse the use of face masks.

“I recommend people do what they want,” he said.

The invite to Saturday’s event included a disclaimer: “In attending the event, you and any guests voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19, and waive, release, and discharge Donald J. Trump for President Inc.; Portsmouth International Airport at Pease; or any of their affiliates, directors, officers, employees, agents, contractors, or volunteers from any and all liability under any theory, whether in negligence or otherwise, for any illness or injury.”

One likely reason for Trump’s return to New Hampshire is the role his close adviser — and New Hampshire resident — Corey Lewandowski is playing in the 2020 campaign. The president took the unusual step of endorsing candidates in the state’s Republican primaries for U.S. Senate and a key congressional race.

“This visit shows how important New Hampshire is to President Trump,” state Trump 2020 co-chair Rep. Fred Doucette said. “It also shows his commitment to the GOP ticket in our state. He’s endorsed Corky Messner for U.S. Senate and he’s endorsed Matt Mowers for Congress. Now he’s coming here to back it up.”

Republicans are mounting serious challenges to incumbent Democrats Sen Jeanne Shaheen and freshman Congressman Chris Pappas.

“Not only can we deliver four Electoral College votes, but we can win a congressional seat and we can win a U.S. Senate seat with Donald Trump carrying this ticket,” Lewandowski said at last week’s opening of the Trump campaign office in Manchester. “Dollar for dollar, New Hampshire is the best investment the campaign can make.”

Democrats scoff at the notion that Republicans will make progress in New Hampshire with Trump at the top of the ticket. New Hampshire Democrats wasted no time using the announcement to wrap state Republicans in the Trump mantle, an obvious strategy in a state where the president consistently polls 10 points underwater.

“Instead of helping our state safely recover, Trump is flying in for a political rally that will only further highlight the chaos he has caused,” N.H. Democratic Party chairman Ray Buckley said in a statement.

It’s true that Trump’s numbers in New Hampshire don’t look great, concedes veteran GOP strategist Michael Dennehy. “But if the economy recovers, New Hampshire is absolutely in play,” he said.

That’s a view shared by Neil Levesque, executive director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College in Manchester.

“It’s a smart strategy for the president to appear in as many toss-up states as possible between now and November,” he said. “Will it be the easiest state in the toss-up category to win? No, but there is plenty of time between now and the election for the campaign to spend time in any state that is a possible win.

“The president does well when he is out on the stump and communicating directly to voters, so I’m not surprised they picked the Granite State for this visit,” Levesque said.

“The only thing that matters is when people go to the polls (in November),” Lewandowski said last week. “The silent majority … will turn out once again and support Donald Trump.”

Michael Graham is political editor at InsideSources.com.