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With Trump's N.H. Primary Win, GOP Sets Sights on November

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

Steve Stepanek called it “the big reveal.”

He paused for effect. He then donned a red Keep America Great ball cap and announced:

“I’ve been in the closet too long. I’m happy to be out, and I want all the other Trump supporters to come out of the closet and get out there and support and elect Donald Trump in New Hampshire and across this great country.”

As chairman of the Republican State Committee, Stepanek said he had to remain neutral in the primary. Not that his allegiance to Donald Trump was ever in question, as he was a state chairman for Trump four years ago.

His theatrics, however, furthered an effort to remind Republicans gathered in Bedford that the general election would not be as easy as trouncing a GOP rival like Bill Weld — the former Massachusetts governor who earned nearly 13,000 GOP primary votes Tuesday.

“It starts now,” Stepanek said. “We have got to work harder than we ever have in our lives because if we don’t win in November, New Hampshire ceases to exist as New Hampshire and America ceases to exist as we know it.”

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Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was the best-known speaker at this primary night party. “We are all in in the state of New Hampshire,” he said.

Lewandowski spent most of his time mingling with Republicans, posing for selfies, and answering reporters’ questions on the state of the race.

The press asked Lewandowski for his take on billionaire Mike Bloomberg, a Democrat who skipped New Hampshire and other opening primary contests.

Credit Dan Tuohy / NHPR
Corey Lewandowski at President Trump's primary night party in Bedford.

“I think ‘mini Mike’ has bypassed New Hampshire," he replied. "He’s bypassed Iowa. He’s not going to campaign in Nevada or South Carolina. He thinks he can buy his way into the nomination by only playing in Super Tuesday (states). Historically, it’s never happened before. You can’t bypass the early states because you need them in the general election.”

State Rep. Al Baldasaro, another Trump campaign foot soldier from 2016, called the primary win a "trial run" for the general election.

N.H. House Republican Leader Dick Hinch’s sights were also set on November.

He wrapped up his speech by pointing out that Republicans — while celebrating incumbents for president and governor, in Chris Sununu — are currently in the minority in the state House, the Senate, and the Executive Council.

Three congressional offices on the 2020 ballot are also now held by Democrats, including Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who’s seeking a third term.

But this night was primarily for Donald Trump. And Hinch was happy to oblige his audience.

“Is there anyone here that wants to see Bernie as the next president?”

The audience booed.

“Wrong answer,” he said. “It’s: ‘Hell, no!’ ”

Dan is a long-time New Hampshire journalist who has written for outlets including Foster's Daily Democrat, The Citizen of Laconia, The Boston Globe, and The Eagle-Tribune. He comes to NHPR from the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he reported on state, local, and national politics.

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