Democratic candidates are scrambling across New Hampshire anxious to draw crowds and beat expectations, but President Donald Trump is likely to garner the biggest audience when he speaks tonight on the eve of the state’s presidential primary.
By noon in Manchester, the streets already were blocked off and hundreds of his supporters had begun lining up for his evening rally at the downtown SNHU Arena. The campaign’s “Trump TV” — featuring “real news” reports from Lara Trump, the president’s daughter-in-law — played on a Jumbotron for attendees to watch as they waited through occasional drizzle. About a half-dozen vendors sold Make America Great Again merchandise, including $10 hats and hand warmers for those who are in for the marathon wait.
Trump himself retweeted a report from Jon Karl, ABC News’ chief White House correspondent, on the size of his crowd. “Cold rain, snow and lots of Trump supporters. Despite the miserable weather, there are already more people lining up outside the venue of @realDonaldTrump‘s rally tonight than you see at most of the events for the Democratic candidates. Some have been out here all night,” Karl wrote.
Democrats have been focused on themselves on this final day before the primary. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has at least a slight lead in the polls, is holding a closing rally on Monday night that will feature the Strokes and Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. He’s also deployed some celebrity surrogates across the state, including actress Cynthia Nixon and actor Tim Robbins.
Crowd sizes are important measurements for Democrats, too.
Sanders’ team has trumpeted the size of his crowds in New Hampshire, including a rally in Keene that drew the very precise figure of 1,981 attendees — what the campaign said was the largest of any candidate to date this cycle. The campaign sent out a note to reporters after Mayor Pete Buttigieg emailed journalists last night that he drew 1,257 in Salem, a Trump stronghold. Buttigieg’s campaign said it was the largest the community had seen for a campaign stop this cycle.
Across Elm Street from the Trump rally, an office for the Buttigieg campaign was relatively quiet, as his volunteers are fanned out across the state to walk precincts. His campaign is hoping for a closer-than-expected finish after winning the delegate count in the latest returns from the Iowa Democratic Party. Among those on the trail for him on Monday: Kevin Costner, who endorsed him in December. Michael J. Fox campaigned for him over the weekend.
Former VP Joe Biden and his staffers have spent the past couple of days responding to media buzz that his campaign is in major trouble and that he will struggle to place third or even fourth in the state after Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren.
“Nothing’s going to happen until we get down to a place, and around the country, where there’s much more diversity,” Biden said in an interview on CBS This Morning. “You’re always behind the eight ball when you’re running in New Hampshire if you have two people from neighboring states, but I feel good about what we’re doing up here.”
The New Hampshire primary has a tradition of surprises, the most recent being Hillary Clinton’s victory in 2008, when many pundits and even polls had started to write off her prospects to Barack Obama. Instead, on the final day before the primary, she had a moment where her voice cracked in emotion as she talked of her candidacy, and it seemed to change the course of her campaign in the state.
The center of the media maelstrom is the Doubletree Hotel downtown, where MSNBC, PBS Newshour, Bloomberg and the Associated Press have set up shop, while reporters and anchors stake out spots in the lobby to file. Among those spotted: Garry Trudeau, author of Doonesbury and the acclaimed campaign trail mockumentary series Tanner ’88. On Monday, the relative calm of the lobby was interrupted a bit by the occasional sounds of honking horns — of a Trump supporter driving down the street in a pickup truck with a MAGA flag.
Julia Duchaine and her husband, Michael, drove two hours to the rally from West Baldwin, Maine, wanting to see Trump in person before his re-election campaign focuses on states farther from their home.
“This is really a crucial time in our nation, in our history right now, what is happening,” she said. “If we don’t do something right now to stand up for our republic and for our Constitution, we’re going to lose our country. What we are seeing on the left, the socialists and the communists and the Democrats’ party right now, the liberals, they are so far out there right now that what their policies would do is destroy us.”
Duchaine also said that she was a Trump supporter because he is against abortion.
“That is one big issue for me. It is not just economics,” she said. “He makes sense. He has soundness in his policies. Look at everything he’s done. All of the accomplishments he has done no president has been able to do in years.”
Raymond Buckley, the chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, said that he thinks a lot of the attendees are from out of state.
“I think you have just got a lot of people from all over the Northeast that drove up, and that’s fine,” he said. “But I am grateful that he is here. Appreciate it. He really is the best get-out-the-vote motivator for Democrats that exists. There is really nothing that we could do that would be better than having the impeached president show up the night before a primary.”