MANCHESTER, N.H. — Eager to put on a show of force in a general election battleground state, President Donald Trump tried to rattle Democrats on Monday with a rally in New Hampshire on the eve of the state’s first-in-the-nation primaries.
Boston 25 News was there as President Trump held a rally ahead of the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday.
The night before, hundreds of supporters camped out in 20-degree weather ahead of the president’s re-election campaign rally. As on Monday, thousands of people had gathered to listen to President Trump and a slew of those speakers address the state’s voters.
“I just have a mattress pad for the ground to stay dry, a sleeping bag and an emergency sleeping bag for low temps because it looks like New Hampshire is getting some snow,” said Kjerstan Fonzi.
Many supporters were hoping to skip the long lines they anticipate at the SNHU arena before the rally started.
The Southern New Hampshire University Arena, where the rally was held, hosts up to 11,000 people.
Security at the event was tight, where multiple guards could be seen at the entrance points, exits and across the arena. Boston 25 News crews were searched a couple of times before they were allowed to remain at a certain part of the arena.
President Trump had last been to New Hampshire in August, but this time around he marked his first trip to Manchester, N.H. as president since last visiting in 2016.
Officials said the president was energized after the Senate failed to convict him on two articles of Impeachment last week, along with what they considered to be a very successful State of the Union address. On a high after his acquittal last week on impeachment charges, Trump launched an assault on the Democrats who tried to remove him from office, calling the episode a “pathetic partisan crusade."
“Our good Republicans in the United States Senate voted to reject the outrageous partisan impeachment hoax and to issue a full, complete and absolute total acquittal," said Trump. "And it wasn’t even close.”
In his State of the Union speech, President Trump touted the USMCA, something his officials say will be beneficial to small companies in N.H.
The president took the stage at 7 p.m. as a crowd cheered him on stage.
Before leaving Washington, Trump pointed to the lingering uncertainty over the outcome of the Democratic party’s kickoff caucuses, where the results are still under dispute.
“Want to shake up the Dems a little bit - they have a really boring deal going on,” Trump tweeted. “Still waiting for the Iowa results, votes were fried. Big crowds in Manchester!”
It's a tried-and-tested tactic for Trump: Scheduling counter-programming to divert attention from Democratic debates and other major moments, keeping him in the spotlight and building supporters' enthusiasm in the months before Election Day.
At the same time, Trump continued to celebrate the Senate's acquittal decision, lacing into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her performance during his State of the Union address last week.
“I had somebody behind me who was mumbling terribly, mumbling, mumbling,” Trump complained, calling it “very distracting, very distracting.”
Trump’s remarks prompted the crowd to break out into the same “Lock her up!!” chant his supporters once directed at Hillary Clinton.
Though it isn't presenting the same show of force as last week, when dozens of Trump's surrogates, including officials from across all levels of government, flooded the state of Iowa, the Trump campaign is making its presence known in New Hampshire.
Vice President Mike Pence and Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter and senior adviser, got to the state ahead of the president to do some campaigning.
Also being deployed by the president’s re-election campaign were Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and Rand Paul, House Republican Whip Steve Scalise, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu and Trump’s former campaign manager, New Hampshire resident — and once-rumored Senate candidate — Corey Lewandowski.
The marquee event was held in front of a sold-out crowd of thousands at a downtown arena, and Trump made sure viewers at home knew it.
“We have more in this arena and outside of this arena than all of the other candidates, meaning the Democrats, put together and multiplied times five," he boasted.
Images of bundled-up supporters camped outside the SNHU Arena in Manchester also broke through the news coverage of the Democratic primary. As Air Force One touched down in New Hampshire, a stream of TrumpWorld luminaries — including Vice President Mike Pence and first son Donald Trump Jr. — preceded the president to the stage.
A frequent topic from the stage: broadsides against the impeachment that imperiled Trump's presidency.
“Justice was served, our Constitution was defended and President Trump was acquitted forever!” Pence told the roaring crowd.
New Hampshire has always loomed large in Trump’s political lore as the first nominating contest he won during 2016's heated Republican primaries. He was about to take the stage at a rally in Manchester that October when news broke that the FBI was re-opening its investigation into Democrat Hillary Clinton’s emails, breathing new life into his then-struggling campaign. And it was the site of the penultimate rally of the 2016 contest — an extravagant send-off just hours before a post-midnight rally in Michigan.
Though Trump narrowly lost New Hampshire in the general election four years ago, his team believes it is one of the few states, along with Minnesota and perhaps New Mexico, that could flip to red in November.
“We are going to win New Hampshire in a landslide," Trump predicted.
Democrats in the state had a different view.
“It’s obvious that Trump and the RNC are desperate to put New Hampshire in play after losing the state by 3,000 votes in 2016. But we’ll make sure that Granite Staters know that he has broken his promises to his state and he will lose here again in November,” New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley told reporters.
The president relished the idea of dominating the stage in New Hampshire and stealing some of the media oxygen from the Democrats. Advisers hoped that Secret Service moves in downtown Manchester to secure the area for the president’s arrival would make it harder for Democratic candidates and their supporters to transverse the state’s largest city in the hours before the primary’s first votes are cast.
At least for now, similar counter-programming rallies have not been planned for the next two nominating states, Nevada and South Carolina.
Trump has not hesitated to try to influence the Democrats' nominating process. He and his advisers frequently huddle to map out strategy against possible general election foes and the president has in recent weeks tried to bolster the candidacy of Sen. Bernie Sanders, the most liberal candidate in the Democratic field and the opponent the White House, at least for now, most wishes to face.
The president has also unleashed a series of attacks on Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is not competing in New Hampshire. Of course, it was Trump's effort to have Ukraine investigate former Vice President Joe Biden that led to his impeachment.
The Manchester rally comes days after Trump was acquitted by the Senate after becoming just the third president in U.S. history to be impeached. Before his departure, Trump was still stewing at Democrats as well as Sen. Mitt Romney, the lone Republican to vote to convict him.
At a White House meeting with more than 30 governors from around the country, he slammed Democrats for “wasting time” on impeachment and teasingly asked Utah Gov. Gary Herbert: “How’s Mitt Romney? You can keep him. We don't want him.”
With his reelection effort heating up, Trump also suggested he’s trying to turn the page and notch a couple of legislative victories before November.
The president said he was hopeful that Democrats would work with him to pass an infrastructure bill as well legislation to lower prescription drug prices, despite the rancor and divisions.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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