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Jennifer Dinsmore isn’t usually the type to line up for a selfie with a political candidate or go out of her way to donate to a campaign. In fact, she said she had never campaigned before until Saturday, when she stood outside a high school in southern New Hampshire to welcome former President Donald Trump. Unable to secure tickets to the first leg of Trump’s 2024 campaign, Dinsmore, 47, still wants to make sure the former president knows he still has supporters ready to help with his comeback.
“Oh, I’m 110 percent Trump,” the mom of two told me as temperatures hovered in the mid-40s and nearby parking lots reached capacity — and then some. “He’s in charge of the economy. He’s closed our borders. He’s made America safe. There’s no high inflation, no high gas prices under President Trump. He’s got so much support there, we’re willing to try again.”
Still, she couldn’t help but wonder about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is emerging as an imminent threat to Trump in the primary. “But if DeSantis runs…” Her voice trailed off as nearby supporters continued to cheer Trumpist chants and buy souvenir scarves and buttons. “DeSantis got it right in Florida. The whole critical race theory thing, the awakening — that’s the right way to run a state,” Dinsmore said. “He’s going to be a tough guy.”
That’s the challenge of Trump’s third presidential campaign: Many Republicans look back fondly on the Trump years, but not necessarily Trump himself. There is no question that Trump has reshaped the Republican Party, extending its reach to parts of the country that haven’t fully seen themselves reflected in the political system, while driving the establishment and moderates alike to madness. Trumpism has led to massive changes in the politics of this country and remains a powerful force. But Trump himself may no longer be the embodiment of that ideology.
Talk to Republican Activists, To insiders and donors in New Hampshire this weekend, it became clear that the assumption of inevitability at Trump’s Florida headquarters might not hold water. Of course, Trump remains the frontrunner for the nomination, but others have been in that position before and failed. In the 2008 race, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani had a double-digit lead nationally over his closest rival for the nomination, but by the time the actual voting began, that support had faded. down to a third.
Locally, Trump’s approval ratings have slipped from post-White House highs, with 47 percent of New Hampshire Republicans backing him as a 2024 candidate. His support has dipped in all four of the University of New Hampshire’s Granite State polls, down to 30 percent. Meanwhile, DeSantis continued to rise in support, finishing at 42 percent in the UNH-Granite State Poll.
To be sure, there’s still an eternity in politics between now and the firing gun of the first primary, and it’s not even clear who will end up in the race. DeSantis won’t even formally run until his legislative session wraps up in late May. As then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry found out in 2011, DeSantis may start his campaign as a rock star until he gets his real test .
Other possible Republican contenders, such as former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, will announce their next steps in the coming weeks. But no one can be confident in the path to gaining enough delegates to veto Trump’s nomination. After all, this year’s Republican race is expected to be a winner-take-all situation, meaning Trump could still win delegates without winning a majority.
Then there is money. Year-end campaign finance reports have yet to be filed, but Trump is widely expected to have an unrivaled kitten. Over the past two years, Trump’s main political committees have spent $28 million to keep the machine going, and Trump’s fundraising prowess is unmatched nationwide by small donors — especially now He has access to Facebook’s platform again. People like former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and even current Senator Tim Scott won’t be short on money when they bid, but it’s hard to top the fundraising sparked by Trump’s detonation blindness.
Still, the uneven start of Trump’s campaign — announced back in November but only now in earnest — is reason enough for his die-hard fans to look around for other options. As DC Brief wrote that day, his speech here Saturday was hardly the clearest argument for another Trump era. His brand of politics began to torment steadfast Republicans like New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, who skipped the state convention and is considering laying the groundwork for his own presidential bid. “I’m not for Trump. I’m not against Trump. I’m just moving on,” Sununu said. “We just want the best normal candidates.”
And, at this point, he’s likely to find plenty of conservatives like him in New Hampshire and beyond.
“I have a lot of respect for him because of what he did for the country,” John O’Brien, a 72-year-old retiree from Hudson, said of Trump. But can Trump win in 2024? I ask O’Brien because we’re standing next to a life-size DeSantis cutout in the hallway, where a pair of tables promoting the Draft DeSantis group and a lone Ron to the Rescue Committee are handing out stickers. “Anyone can win,” O’Brien added, saying he wasn’t being glib. “This country is a mess and we need new leadership. To me, Trump is the only one who has done this, but I would love to see others.”
With this opening, the GOP may be in the early stages of breaking through the Trump mania that prevailed in 2015 and never really went away. Trump has controlled the narrative and future of the Republican Party for eight years, and in that time the party has lost the House, Senate and White House. Of course, the Republicans are now back in control of the House, but barely, and with a majority. As Republicans in New Hampshire and elsewhere begin to contemplate the next chapter of their party and its leadership, the absolutism of Trump’s rule begins to unravel, giving the possibility of still being able to enter the local Costco without being recognized. candidates bring hope. The better question is whether, in the post-Trump era, ordinary Republicans can go to the polls and recognize their party. In New Hampshire, at least there is that spark of imagination.
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