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Is New Hampshire still Trump country as the former president runs for the White House a third time?

Is New Hampshire — the state that rocketed Donald Trump toward the 2016 Republican nomination and eventually the White House — still Trump country in the 2024 GOP presidential primary?

Donald Trump’s top adviser in New Hampshire says the former president’s supporters in the crucial early-voting state are starting to wake up.

“The Trump supporters have been in hibernation, and we’re just waking them all up,” Steve Stepanek tells Fox News. “It’s pretty exciting to see the enthusiasm and the energy that people have.”

New Hampshire was the state that boosted Trump toward the 2016 Republican presidential nomination and eventually the White House. After narrowly losing the Iowa caucuses to Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Trump crushed his rivals a week later in the New Hampshire’s presidential primary, which rocketed the then-business mogul and reality TV star toward the nomination and accelerated the thinning of the GOP field of candidates.


Four years later, the incumbent president demolished his long shot primary challenger — former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld — 84% to 9% in New Hampshire’s Republican nominating contest. 

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Fast-forward to 2023, and as the former president runs a third time for the White House his campaign is placing many chips on strong finishes in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina — the first three states to vote in the Republican nominating calendar.

“We’re starting right here as a candidate for president,” Trump said in January during a stop at the high school in Salem, New Hampshire, as he headlined the state GOP’s annual meeting.

During his visit, which came more than two months after the former president launched his 2024 campaign, Trump said: “I look forward to returning many times” and predicted that “one year from now we will win the New Hampshire primary and the with the help of the good people of this state … we’ll take back the White House.”

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But Trump hasn’t returned to New Hampshire since making that first — and only — stop on Jan. 28.

Stepanek, a former state lawmaker and businessman who co-chaired Trump’s 2016 campaign in the Granite State and who earlier this year finished up four years steering the state party committee, told Fox News that the former president is expected back later in the spring.

While the Trump campaign had already started staffing up in Iowa and South Carolina, Stepanek this past week made his first hire in New Hampshire, bringing on board Trevor Naglieri as state director. Naglieri, who has some experience working in the field in New Hampshire, is also a veteran of the campaigns of 2016 Trump rivals Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

But as of now, the Trump campaign’s operations for all of the early states will be steered out of Iowa, and that’s not sitting so well with some Trump supporters in the Granite State.

“It rubs the activists the wrong way,” a veteran of the Trump 2016 campaign in New Hampshire told Fox News. 

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The operative, who asked to remain anonymous to speak more freely, said that he and others “feel like the successful team from 2016 has been largely abandoned.”

“I think activists in the state that are sitting back, waiting to see how the field forms. I don’t think they’re solidly for Trump just because they were Trump people before,” the operative added.

There’s been a dearth of polling so far in the Republican presidential primary in New Hampshire, but the latest two surveys — one public and one private — indicate Trump as the frontrunner. Surveys this early in an election cycle are far from a reliable prediction of primaries in 2024, though, and New Hampshire voters are known for making up their minds at the last minute.

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Asked whether New Hampshire is still Trump country, longtime Granite State-based Republican consultant Jim Merrill answered that “it’s open to question. I’d say he starts with a head start, but other folks are on his heels here.”

“I think he has to come back and has to earn it. It remains to be seen if he’s going to do that or not,” added Merrill, a veteran of numerous GOP presidential campaigns.

Matt Mowers, a veteran of the Trump 2016 campaign who later served in the State Department during the former president’s administration and who was the 2020 Republican nominee in New Hampshire’s First Congressional District, said that Trump has “got a locked-in base of support, but it’s not a majority. And I think a majority right now are listening to all the candidates.”

Mowers, who has ties to former ambassador and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley — who declared her candidacy six weeks ago — as well as to Trump and to potential contenders former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, is staying neutral as the field emerges.

“Whether it’s President Trump, who’s going to have to come back to New Hampshire and campaign the New Hampshire way — handshake to handshake — or others who are either running right now, like Ambassador Haley or people thinking about running, like Gov. Christie, they’re all going to have to do it the New Hampshire way,” he said.

Veteran New Hampshire conservative activist Greg Moore emphasized that “New Hampshire is full of tire-kickers. We love to put candidates through their paces, and Donald Trump is no exception to that. He’s going to have to work just like any other candidate who wants to win New Hampshire. He’s certainly shown he can do that. He did that in 2016 pretty handily. And he has, without question, the best infrastructure of any candidate, so he’s well positioned.”

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But Moore, the longtime state director for influential conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, highlighted that Trump is “still going to have to prove himself to New Hampshire voters, just like every other candidate.

Juliana Bergeron, one of the two New Hampshire committee members on the Republican National Committee and a former Cheshire County GOP chair, doesn’t see her state as a lock for Trump. “I do think there’s room for somebody like a [former Vice President] Mike Pence or Nikki Haley,” she told Fox News.

Bergeron, who as an RNC committee member is staying neutral in the nomination race, said that he thinks Republican voters in New Hampshire are “looking for a new generation of candidates.”

While Republican voters in New Hampshire will play a large role in determining the winner of their state’s GOP presidential primary, there’s another factor in play in the state.

Independents and undeclared voters in New Hampshire can vote in either major party’s primary. And if, as expected, President Biden seeks a second term in the White House, many independents who cast ballots in the 2016 and 2020 Democratic presidential primaries in New Hampshire may vote instead in 2024 in what will likely be a much more competitive GOP primary.

“The real issue is, will there be enough independents who take Republican ballots to change it,” former state attorney general Tom Rath told Fox News. 

Rath, a longtime GOP consultant and veteran of numerous Republican presidential campaigns, noted that “independents will matter a lot in New Hampshire . . . they’re now in play in the Republican ballot, and that changes the primary electorate a great deal.”

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