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Trump won the NH Primary. What would it take for him to win the general election in NH?

Former President Donald Trump looks on as state GOP Chairman Chris Ager addresses convention in Nashua
Josh Rogers / NHPR
Former President Donald Trump looks on as state GOP Chairman Chris Ager addresses convention in Nashua.

The Republican primary saw record turnout at the polls on Tuesday in New Hampshire with former President Donald Trump winning 54% of the vote over former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.

Trump is the first Republican candidate to win open races in both Iowa and New Hampshire since 1976 when both states began leading the election calendar. NHPR’s Morning Edition host Rick Ganley spoke with New Hampshire GOP Chairman Chris Ager about what Trump’s win means for his party.


So Donald Trump is facing multiple criminal charges in a growing chorus of opposition within his own party, including from Gov. Chris Sununu, who did endorse former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. What does Trump's win say about Republican voters' loyalty to him?

So I think what it says is that people were better off four years ago than they are now, and they remember the policies that he had in place and they helped improve their lives. And so at the end of the day, it's the kitchen table issues. 'Can I afford groceries? Can I afford to put gas in my car? How are my kids doing? Do we feel safe at home?' All the other political baloney that people talk about and the maneuvering gets put to the side when you're trying to take care of your kids and your family and you go, 'What's important to me?' You try to buy a dozen eggs, a gallon of milk – it costs a lot more. People are struggling with the inflation that's caused and contributed to by President Biden's policies. They're worried about security. You think back, 'Wow, four years ago I didn't feel this bad. Things were better. Who was president? President Trump. Maybe let's give him another try.'

Throughout the campaign, Trump was really throwing insults and scorning fellow Republicans who opposed him, anyone who opposed him, really. And we've heard from many New Hampshire Republicans throughout the months leading up to this campaign, who said they really find Donald Trump's divisive and unhealthy rhetoric just really off putting. What do you make of what appears to be that stark divide among Republicans on either side of that Trump line?

We had record turnout yesterday in the Republican primary, over 300,000 [Republican voters], partly because you had the very passionate pro-Trump turnout. People would crawl over broken glass to come vote for him. But you also had the [perspective of] 'I don't like President Trump that much. I really want to have an alternative.' So both sides came out, which gave us that record turnout. To win in November, President Trump is going to have to appeal to more people and not be as divisive. I firmly believe that.

How can he do that given the record of the past several years?

I think Americans are very forgiving. And if he can demonstrate that he's willing to and he reaches out to more people, a bigger tent, not just Republicans, but the entire country. We want a president to lead the entire country. If he can do that, I think he could do very well in November. We saw a little bit of that Saturday at his rally. It started where I was kind of in awe of the very beginning of that rally, where he seemed very statesman-like, presidential. He didn't criticize his primary opponents. He was very magnanimous.

Well, he certainly did last night after Nikki Haley spoke and conceded the race to him here in New Hampshire, but said she's moving on. He was really angry last night that she did not drop out of the race. And his rhetoric was, I would say, very typical Donald Trump.

Yeah, it's kind of amazing because the same thing happened Saturday. He started very, very statesmanlike. And then it was the old Donald Trump that we all know and love.

And we understand in a primary he's appealing to his base. But what can he do to pivot to appeal to independents, which he is going to need come November?

I think he's going to have to rely on his record first because I've talked to a lot of Republicans who say, 'I really don't like his tweets. I really don't like that. But at the end of the day, what's going to help my family, my kids, help pay the bills?' It is something that I believe he has to work on, and hopefully with his team. He's got a great campaign team. Hopefully they can help guide that rhetoric to be more inclusive of everybody in the country and really be that leader that we all look for.

Jackie Harris is the Morning Edition Producer at NHPR. She first joined NHPR in 2021 as the Morning Edition Fellow.

For many radio listeners throughout New Hampshire, Rick Ganley is the first voice they hear each weekday morning, bringing them up to speed on news developments overnight and starting their day off with the latest information.
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