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    Trump returns to New Hampshire looking to blunt any momentum for Haley

    Scott Eisen/Getty Images

    Former President Donald Trump delivers remarks during a campaign event in Claremont, New Hampshire, on November 11, 2023.


    Former President Donald Trump on Saturday will look to lock down his support in New Hampshire as he tries to solidify his status as the 2024 Republican front-runner in the final weeks before the state’s first-in-the-nation GOP presidential primary.

    In his first trip to the Granite State in over a month, Trump will hold a rally in the college town of Durham in one of the state’s most liberal counties. He’ll follow that up with an event in Reno, Nevada, on Sunday and then Waterloo, Iowa, on Tuesday – his second visit to the Hawkeye State in a week.

    The burst of campaigning underscores an aggressive effort by Trump’s team to maintain his dominating lead when polls give way to actual voting. His advisers have privately voiced concerns that Trump supporters could simply assume he has a comfortable advantage in the race and is not reliant on their votes.

    “We are leading by a lot, but you have to go out and vote,” Trump told supporters Wednesday night in Coralville, Iowa.

    Trump’s visit to New Hampshire comes a day after rival Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor, wrapped up his own one-day sojourn in the Granite State. It also comes as another opponent, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, appears to be gaining momentum there, punctuated by a recent endorsement by the state’s popular governor, Chris Sununu, who has long made clear his opposition to Trump’s candidacy.

    DeSantis said Friday that Trump will claim the results of the New Hampshire primary are illegitimate if he doesn’t win.

    “If Trump loses, he will say it’s stolen no matter what, absolutely,” he told reporters in Concord, New Hampshire.

    DeSantis also hit Trump’s engagement with New Hampshire voters, asking: “When’s the last time he stood on a stage and just took questions from voters? Has he done that at any point during this campaign? He certainly hasn’t done it on a debate stage.”

    Sununu told reporters Tuesday that he believed the Republican primary in New Hampshire was a two-person race.

    “This is a race between two people. Nikki Haley and Donald Trump. That’s it … with all due respect to the other candidates,” Sununu said.

    Following Sununu’s endorsement, Trump bashed the New Hampshire governor as “unelectable” and labeled Haley as having “no chance of winning.”

    A Trump campaign adviser told CNN shortly after news of Sununu’s endorsement was first reported that the team has no plans to shift its strategy in response to Haley’s growing prominence in the race.

    It’s unclear what impact Sununu’s endorsement will have on the primary. A recent Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom poll in Iowa suggested DeSantis’ support there grew only nominally from an endorsement by another popular governor, Kim Reynolds.

    A CNN/University of New Hampshire poll of likely voters in New Hampshire’s Republican primary released last month showed Trump with 42% support. Haley, his closest challenger, was at 20%.

    Trump is even more dominant in national polls. A Pew Research Center survey released Thursday found 52% of Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters name the former president as their top choice in the primary. His nearest challenger was DeSantis, at 14%.

    Trump pushed back on the notion that Haley, with Sununu’s help, is gaining ground on him.

    “There’s no surge. They don’t have any surge,” Trump told supporters in Iowa on Wednesday.

    Meanwhile, in Iowa, the Trump campaign is seeking to undermine Reynolds’ endorsement of DeSantis, releasing a new ad Friday that highlights previous statements she made in support for Trump. The ad could counter spots in Iowa from Never Back Down, the super PAC backing DeSantis, that feature Reynolds praising the Florida governor.

    DeSantis has increasingly focused his efforts toward drawing a contrast with Trump, notably spending much of his time at a CNN town hall in Iowa on Wednesday lobbing attacks at the former president. He criticized Trump’s record on Covid-19, his unwillingness to debate fellow Republican candidates, and his unpredictable rhetoric, which DeSantis said reveals an unflattering side of his character.

    “When he gets off the teleprompter now, you don’t know what he’s gonna say,” DeSantis said. “It’s a different Donald Trump than in ’15 and ’16. You know, back then he was colorful, but it was really America first, about the policies. Now a lot of it’s about him.”

    On Friday, Haley joined DeSantis in needling Trump for not attending any Republican primary debates this year as she confirmed her participation in a CNN Iowa debate next month. DeSantis committed to attending the debate shortly after it was announced last week.

    “As the debate stage continues to shrink, it’s getting harder for Donald Trump to hide,” Haley said in the statement.

    Another Republican hopeful ramping up his attacks against Trump is former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who on Friday launched his campaign’s first ad in New Hampshire. The spot makes the case that Christie is “the only one who can beat Trump because he’s the only one trying to beat Trump” in a jab at DeSantis and Haley for not attacking the former president more.

    Christie’s gambit to campaign almost exclusively in New Hampshire and focus his message primarily on attacking Trump has yet to demonstrate substantial success, as he continues to trail the former president significantly in New Hampshire polling.

    This story has been updated with additional information.

    CNN’s Steve Contorno, Jeff Zeleny and Alison Main contributed to this report.



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