LACONIA, N.H. – Confident in his lead over former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former President Donald Trump looked ahead to the general election in his final campaign rally on Monday night before the New Hampshire primary.
“Really, if you add some Democrats into it, we started off with 13, and now we’re down to two people. And I think one person will be gone, probably, tomorrow,” he said, referring to Haley.
Trump had reason to be cocky.
Haley still trails Trump in recent polls in New Hampshire, which she was counting on to make her campaign viable going forward. Many political analysts believe she will struggle to advance in the primary if she does not score a first-place finish in the Granite State, whose independent characteristics make it uniquely receptive to her candidacy. The primary in Haley’s home state of South Carolina is just a month away, and a defeat in New Hampshire would deprive her of the momentum needed to avoid an embarrassing blowout there.
“Now is the time for the Republican Party to come together,” he continued. “We have to unify.”
Trump then invited three of his former Republican rivals onstage: North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. All three men had already delivered warm-up speeches, but they gave brief additional remarks.
Ramaswamy, who elicited at least one chant of “Veep,” developed a call-and-response with the audience, where he would describe a policy demand and then say, “Vote Trump” until the audience joined him in the refrain.
“If you want to seal the border, vote Trump. If you want law and order in this country, vote Trump,” he said. “If you want to defeat the Deep State, vote Trump. If you want to fight inflation, vote Trump.”
As in his other speeches, Trump dedicated some time to denouncing Haley as a “globalist” beholden to wealthy donors and non-Republican voters.
He also warned his supporters not to get complacent about his lead over Haley in Tuesday’s race.
“Even if you think we are going to win big – and I think we are – you’re going to have to show it,” he said, noting that big electoral wins can even overcome the “cheating” that he falsely claims has thwarted him in the past. “One way you know you win is when you swamp them – not drain the swamp, build up the swamp in this case.”
But Trump put a greater emphasis than normal on the fight against President Joe Biden.
“We’re going to do things and we’re going to do things right. We’re going to bring our country back,” he said. “With your vote, you’re going to put Crooked Joe and his protectors on notice that we are coming in November; we’re coming to take over the beautiful, beautiful White House. And we’re going to run the country the way it’s supposed to be run.”
The atmosphere in the basement-level auditorium of the Margate Resort on the icy shore of Lake Winnipesaukee was lively and sweaty. The standing-room-only crowd of several hundred included many younger Trump supporters in red MAGA hats and scarves.
Before his remarks, Trump stopped by the overflow room to say hello to a few dozen people who had been kept out of the main hall after the fire marshal apparently prohibited new admissions.
Like other candidates, Trump had evidently selected the relatively modest venue with an eye toward filling the space. That didn’t stop him from bragging that an overflow room, where attendees had to watch the rally on a TV screen, was a sign of his prowess. Many of those attendees had waited for hours in the cold to get into the building.
“Outside you’ve got a lot of people,” he said during his remarks in the main speaking hall. “That’s like a poll. That’s like taking a poll.”
Trump’s high spirits and talk of unity were not the only things about Monday night’s event that suggested that the general election was at hand. Trump’s adversaries on the left are once again showing signs of anxiety about the prospect of his return to the White House.
His speech was interrupted at least four times by progressive demonstrators. The first group of protesters chanted, “You stole millions, you stole millions,” before security escorted them away.
It is unclear what they meant or the group with which they were affiliated.
The next three interruptions were from activists affiliated with the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led climate action group. Virginia, an undergraduate student at Brown University, yelled out that Trump was a “fossil-fuel sellout” before being dragged out by some of the numerous police officers assisting the Secret Service at the event.
“He has taken millions of dollars from fossil fuel executives who are funding his campaign, and those same executives are funding the destruction of our homes,” she told HuffPost afterward. “Climate change is a very real issue that’s happening right now.”
Virginia, who declined to provide her last name, said that the group deliberately staggered the interruptions of Trump’s speech to maximize the impact.
“Our goal here is to disrupt him and make sure that people are aware that he is a climate criminal,” she said.
Sunrise has conducted similar actions against all four of the final Republican presidential candidates in Iowa and New Hampshire. Although the group’s activists had already staged a protest at a Trump rally in Iowa, Monday night’s demonstration was their first at one of his events in the Granite State.
Asked whether Trump’s imminent victory in the Republican presidential primary added an element of urgency to the evening’s disruptions, Adah Crandall, another Sunrise activist who interrupted Trump’s speech, replied, “Absolutely, yeah.”
Virginia agreed. “We’ve seen from his previous term that he’s not going to act on climate; he’s going to do the opposite,” she said.