MANCHESTER — State Rep. Fred Doucette, R-Salem, has witnessed plenty of President Donald Trump’s campaign rallies during his tenure as co-chairman of Trump’s 2016 campaign in New Hampshire. The rallies have been high-energy, and a little unpredictable, he said.
“There’s no telling the President what to speak about,” Doucette said, but when Trump holds a rally in Manchester this Thursday, Doucette said, he expects him to address this month’s mass shootings and the state of the economy.
Whatever the President talks about, Doucette said he hopes the rally will rile up volunteers and donors.
“The energy perpetuates, hopefully,” he said.
Doucette said New Hampshire is important to Trump’s reelection — campaign staffers have been here for four months, he said.
“You don’t need the President to visit the state to prove the importance,” he said.
Trump lost New Hampshire by fewer than 2,800 votes in 2016, he said. “We don’t expect that’s going to happen again.”
Trump is not scheduled to appear at any other events in New Hampshire before or after the rally, campaign spokesman Nina McLaughlin said. The campaign is organizing other events with surrogates.
Fergus Cullen, a Republican who opposes Trump and served as chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party in 2007-2008, said he thought the Trump campaign was not paying much attention to New Hampshire.
The President has not campaigned here since 2016. His last visit in March 2018 was an official one, where he gave a speech about drug policy and called for the death penalty for drug traffickers.
Cullen said Trump’s children and Vice President Mike Pence have not campaigned in the Granite State, and noted the only other Trump family member to campaign here was daughter-in-law Lara Trump.
The rally will probably not convert any skeptics, Cullen said, but it could make passive fans into activists or donors.
The campaign of former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, who is challenging Trump for the Republican presidential nomination, said a rally alone might not be enough to activate New Hampshire primary voters.
“Campaign rallies are great, regardless of the candidate or party, and it appears that the Trump campaign has realized that New Hampshire voters don’t like to be taken for granted,” Joe Hunter, a Weld campaign spokesman, said in an email. “At the same time, New Hampshire voters take their primaries very seriously, and like to actually talk with candidates, not just listen to their speeches.”
Mark Sanford, a former congressman and former South Carolina governor who is exploring a run against Trump for President, said the energy and enthusiasm at Trump’s rallies are real, as thousands of fans chant together and cheer for their hero.
“The perception has been that he’s fighting for them,” Sanford said. “The question is: Is there a divide between that perception and reality?”
Sanford noted a fundraising lunch that a donor held for Trump on Aug. 9 in the Hamptons on Long Island, where tickets cost up to $250,000 each. Sanford said that was a long way from Trump’s 2016 promise to fund his own campaign and ferret out pay-to-play corruption in Washington.
For their part, Trump’s Democratic opponents are staging a series of demonstrations around the rally.
The New Hampshire campaign of former Vice President Joe Biden will hold a protest down the street from the Southern New Hampshire University Arena during the rally.
Former New Hampshire Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter is hosting a vigil against hate speech and racism in Manchester on Wednesday, across the street from the arena where Trump will speak the following day.
The state Democratic party will hold news conferences on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoon in Concord, Portsmouth and Manchester. Spokesman Holly Shulman said the party will address campaign promises Trump has not kept.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren will hold a town hall in Franconia the day before Trump’s Manchester rally, and several Democratic presidential candidates are set to visit New Hampshire in the days after the rally, including Andrew Yang, Biden and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker. Booker’s campaign called on Trump to cancel Thursday’s event.
Doucette said there is already a corps of dedicated volunteers in New Hampshire. The campaign has held several volunteer training sessions, and he said volunteers are working with local Republican organizations. About 200 people had signed up to volunteer at the Thursday rally, Doucette said, and many of the volunteers had been to multiple rallies before.
“It’s not time to knock on doors, but it’s time to get the grassroots fired up, re-engaged,” he said. “That’s the focus now.”