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Trump speaks at state GOP convention in first visit to NH since launching 2024 campaign

Josh Rogers
Former President Donald Trump looks on as new state GOP Chairman Chris Ager addresses the party convention in Salem, Jan. 28. 2023.

New Hampshire Republicans gathered in Salem this weekend to elect new leaders, and to hear from an old one: former President Donald Trump.

Trump spoke for close to an hour at the state Republican Party’s annual meeting Saturday, delivering a rambling assessment of his tenure as commander in chief and that of his successor. Trump said voters should expect him to take a hard-edged approach in his campaign to reclaim the Oval Office in 2024.

“I’m more angry now and more committed now than I ever was,” Trump said.

Trump reiterated the false claims that he was the rightful winner of the 2020 election. At one point he also said, if he were president, he could immediately end the war in Ukraine.

”Putin would have never ever gone in,” Trump said. “And even now, I could solve that in 24 hours. It's so horrible what happened. Those cities are demolished now."

Trump also stressed issues of more parochial concern to local GOP activists – including defending New Hampshire’s status as leadoff presidential primary state.

"I will make sure New Hampshire remains the home of the first in the nation for many, many years to come,” Trump said. “And I think, more than anything else, I have proven that I keep my promises."

But whether core Republican voters are still galvanized by Trump is an open question. A poll from the University of New Hampshire released last week showed him trailing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis by 12 points in a hypothetical matchup.

Trump did win repeated rounds of applause in Salem Saturday. After he said he loved New Hampshire, longtime Nashua Republican activist Di Lothrop shouted back, “We love you!”

But there were also signs that Trump’s hold on the party isn’t absolute.

“It was pretty standard fare,” was Chris Wood’s assessment of Trump's speech. The longtime Republican activist from Concord was manning a “Draft DeSantis” table outside the auditorium where Trump spoke.

“I think there is a thing about the age difference,” Wood added about the 32 years separating the 76-year-old Trump and the 44-year-old DeSantis

Gov. Chris Sununu, who skipped the state GOP meeting to travel to Washington to attend the annual Alfalfa Club dinner, also took aim at Trump. On CNN Sunday, Sununu said that Trump’s visit to New Hampshire was “mundane.”

“He’s not really bringing that fire, that energy, I think, that a lot of folks saw in ‘16,” Sununu said. “I think that in many ways it was a little disappointing.”

Sununu has said he hasn’t ruled out his own run for president in 2024.

State GOP delegates meanwhile, picked new party leaders Saturday, electing state Republican Committeeman Chris Ager of Amherst as state chairman, and Ryan Terrell of Nashua, a member of the state Board of Education, as vice chair.

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