Trump says he’s “more committed,” early voters say

(Bloomberg) — Donald Trump said he is “more committed” than ever to his bid to retake the presidency as he tried to revive voters in the first primary states of New Hampshire and South Carolina.

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“They said, ‘He’s not campaigning’… ‘He’s not holding rallies’… ‘Maybe he’s lost that step,’ Trump said Saturday in a speech at the New Hampshire Republican Party annual meeting in Salem . “I’m angrier and more committed now than ever before.”

Trump’s 2024 bid got off to a rocky start as people tuned his speech as he announced his third presidential run in November and called his campaign launch lackluster. Key people in all-important Iowa won’t return calls either.

Trump’s visits on Saturday attempted to find some of that ancient magic in two crucial early primary states.

In New Hampshire, he announced that outgoing GOP chairman Stephen Stepanek will serve as senior adviser to his campaign there. Later, at a rally in Columbia, South Carolina, Trump revealed his campaign team for that state, which included U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, Governor Henry McMaster, Lieutenant Governor Pamela Evette, and U.S. Representatives Joe Wilson, Russell Fry, and William Timmons.

Graham said in a brief address to a small crowd in the capitol that Trump “did it once, he can do it again,” and praised the former president’s foreign policy achievements during his tenure.

“We’re living in a dangerous world right now,” said Graham. “The good news for the Republican Party, there are many talented people in the coming years, but there is only one Donald Trump. And I say this honestly, you can talk about his policies, but you couldn’t do what he did.

Not all Republicans in New Hampshire and South Carolina are rushing to a Trump hug.

GOP strategists say the former president retains support among the hard-core backers who won him primary victories in those two states in 2016, but there are signs voters favor alternatives, as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis of who is generally expected to participate in the race.

“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 multiple presidential campaigns. “He’s coming to a very different political environment in New Hampshire than he was used to before.”

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 found DeSantis leading Trump by 42% to 30% among likely primary voters. A survey of likely GOP voters by the South Carolina Policy Council found that only 37% believe the party should nominate Trump in 2024. In a head-to-head match, DeSantis defeated Trump 52% ​​to 33%.

Still, former New Hampshire GOP chairman Fergus Cullen says the dedication of Trump’s staunch supporters should not be underestimated. In a crowded field, Trump may only need a third of the vote to win the New Hampshire primary again.

“His supporters are open to dating anyone else, but it’s not like they really want to dump him,” Cullen said.

Resistance 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 may be enough to win an overcrowded primary, but there is room for another candidate to peel away support, he warned.

Dawson supports Nikki Haley as she flees. Haley would be a formidable candidate in South Carolina as a popular former governor, who also served as a UN ambassador under Trump. She said in 2021 she wouldn’t run if Trump did, but has since said she’s seriously considering a 2024 bid.

“There’s a sense that Donald Trump won’t just announce the nomination at this point and will have no resistance,” said Robert Oldendick, a 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 released a book this week; former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson, who attended this week’s meeting of the Republican National Committee in California; and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, who did not attend Saturday’s event. A Scott spokesperson said the senator had a previously planned engagement.

Trump launched his third bid for the White House expecting to benefit from a Republican “red wave” in the midterm elections. Instead, he was widely blamed for the GOP’s disappointing results when his hand-picked candidates lost key races. He did not follow up his announcement with any major campaign events outside of Florida.

Read more: Trump support is ‘Kiss of Death’ as ​​Republican criticism grows

In a Jan. 19 post on Truth Social, Trump acknowledged that his campaign is considered lackluster, but said the election is “a long time away” and promised “LOTS OF HUGE rallies and other events to come.”

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 the capital of Israel.

But Broggi said Trump was not as firm as DeSantis on sexual orientation and gender identity issues and that he damaged his position when he said in an interview that some evangelical leaders were disloyal because they did not immediately support him.

“I honestly think if DeSantis ran, he could potentially remove Trump from the top spot,” Broggi said.

(Updates with South Carolina rally from the fifth paragraph.)

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