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In Manchester, Trump touts record while staying mum on legal troubles

Former President Donald Trump poses with supporters during a rally Thursday in Manchester.
Todd Bookman
Former President Donald Trump poses with supporters during a rally Thursday in Manchester.

Former President Donald Trump continued his campaign for the Republican nomination with a rally in Manchester Thursday, touching on everything from his concerns about electric vehicles to his support of the lobster industry.

It was his second visit to the state since announcing his reelection campaign, and his first since being indicted on criminal charges in New York. Trump didn’t directly address those or other legal troubles in his speech, but he did pledge to take aim at what he described as corrupt prosecutors.

Trump also took aim Thursday afternoon at Gov. Chris Sununu, who is himself considering a presidential run.

Chastising Sununu for New Hampshire’s soaring electricity costs, which are among the highest in the nation, Trump advised the crowd gathered at the DoubleTree hotel in Manchester: “Tell your governor, he ought to work on that a little bit.” He also called the governor, who backed his presidential campaigns in 2016 and 2020, “a nasty guy.”

The comments reflected the growing feud between Trump and Sununu, who has repeatedly dismissed the former president’s reelection chances while talking with reporters about his own White House aspirations. During an appearance at the TIME 100 Summit earlier this week, Sununu predicted that neither Trump or Biden would be their respective party’s nominees, though he didn’t say who he believed would represent the parties.

While the New Hampshire primary is nearly a year away, Trump holds a sizable lead over Sununu and other Republican opponents, declared and potential — a fact he highlighted by displaying polling results on a large screen inside the Manchester ballroom Thursday. An April poll from the University of New Hampshire Survey Center found 42% of likely Republican primary voters favored Trump, versus 22% for Florida Gov. Ron Desantis and 12% for Sununu.

Trump merchandise in Manchester NH
Todd Bookman
A merchandise vendor outside of the DoubleTree hotel in Manchester, where former President Donald Trump gave a campaign speech April 27, 2023.

Though many in attendance at Thursday’s rally said they were committed to supporting Trump, some voters were still considering their options, including Serena Lemieux of Hopkinton.

“As a small business owner, I’ve really felt the impact since President Biden has been in office,” said Lemieux, her young son standing at her side. “And I want to see more money back in my paycheck to help — I’m a single mom — to help support me, my household, and my son.”

Others, like Massachusetts resident Gwen Yeshilian, were more decisive. When asked how her life improved during Trump’s term in office, her reply was blunt.

“I was happier, okay,” Yeshilian said. “I didn’t wake up everyday feeling like I want to beat the crap out of somebody.”

Taking the stage in the hotel ballroom before a rapturous crowd, Trump spent several minutes reading the names of more than 50 local officials who announced their endorsement for him. He then jumped into his stump speech, painting a stark portrait of the choice voters could have next year.

“The choice in this election is now between strength and weakness, between success or failure, between safety or anarchy, between peace or conflict and prosperity or catastrophe,” he said. “We are living in a catastrophe.”

Trump’s last visit to New Hampshire came in January, when he spoke at the state GOP annual convention, promising to defend the state’s lead spot in the presidential primary pecking order.

As Trump was ending his swing through New Hampshire, former United Nations Ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley was also preparing for her latest campaign event in the state, a town hall at New England College. South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Vice President Mike Pence and DeSantis have all made stops in the state in recent months, as well.

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University. He can be reached at tbookman@nhpr.org.

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