Trump returns to New Hampshire with eyes on primary and potential Biden rematch

When former President Donald Trump returned to New Hampshire on Saturday, he was eager to continue leveraging the Israel-Hamas war to draw a contrast with President Joe Biden, his likely 2024 general election opponent.

Trump’s speech in Claremont focused on delivering peace through strength, with the former president arguing that the US and the world were in a more peaceful position during his time in office than they have been under his successor.

“For four straight years under the Trump administration, I kept America safe. I kept Israel safe. I kept Ukraine safe and I kept the world safe,” the former president said.

Trump returned to the Granite State on the heels of his recent testimony at his New York civil fraud trial. Lawyers for Trump, his adult sons and their company will begin their defense on Monday.

But a separate legal proceeding appeared to be top of mind during the rally after Trump’s legal team formally told a federal court late Friday that he would like his election subversion trial in Washington, DC, to be televised.

“Let’s let the public decide because I want cameras in every inch of that courthouse,” he told the crowd of New Hampshire voters.

Besides his legal issues, Biden and the war in Israel and Gaza, Trump, who rarely sticks to prepared remarks exclusively, touched on a wide range of other topics.

He promised to sign an executive order on Day 1 of a potential second term that would cut funding for the shelter and transportation of undocumented immigrants and redirect a portion of the savings to provide “shelter and treatment for our own homeless veterans.”

“We’re not treating our veterans right,” the former president said on Veterans Day to a crowd that included many former service members.

Trump’s New Hampshire event comes just days after he skipped the third GOP primary debate in Miami, opting instead to host a counterprogramming event in Hialeah, just down the road from where his opponents sparred onstage. Trump spent more time attacking Biden than his GOP rivals in his Hialeah remarks.

On Saturday, he promised to “root out” the political left.

“We will root out the communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country,” Trump said.

Outside threats, he added, are “far less sinister, dangerous and grave than the threat from within.”

While Trump and his team may be looking ahead to a potential general election rematch – and he has maintained a robust lead in GOP primary polling – the former president is still courting voters in the early nominating states.

Trump’s rally on Saturday is one of several trips he’s making to New Hampshire this month as part of a strategic effort by his campaign to ensure he doesn’t lose momentum heading into the early months of 2024 as his rivals campaign relentlessly in the first-in-the-nation primary state, his advisers told CNN.

Saturday’s stop in Claremont was not random, Trump’s advisers said. The visit was part of the campaign’s focus on the voter-rich southern part of the state, following a northern New Hampshire stop last month, as Trump and his team look to cover as much ground as possible before the primary.

Trump’s campaign believes that winning Iowa and New Hampshire would effectively force his primary opponents to drop out and donors to rally around him, his advisers said.

Alternatively, New Hampshire is also a key state for Trump’s rivals looking to make headway in their own races. Several of them, including former Govs. Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Chris Christie of New Jersey, have made the point of how the path to staging a real challenge to Trump runs through New Hampshire.

“In New Hampshire, we have a lot of people that say that, yes, they support President Trump, but that doesn’t mean they’re voting for him,” Haley said last month while filing for the Granite State GOP primary.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, a vocal critic of the former president who at one point toyed with his own 2024 bid, has long been shopping around for a Trump alternative to endorse and has repeatedly argued he views his state as a pathway for another GOP candidate to weaken Trump’s grip on the party.

“I’m not anti-Trump. I’m just pro-Republican Party,” Sununu said Thursday during a town hall with Christie in Merrimack. Sununu has not endorsed in the race but has made appearances on the trail with multiple GOP hopefuls.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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