Jan 23, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Trump flexes field game in New Hampshire primary

Donald Trump speaks into a microphone and points upward.

Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images

Nikki Haley says Donald Trump created chaos as president. But in New Hampshire, even Republicans who don't support Trump are praising the organized campaign he has run for the state's primary.

Why it matters: Haley did far more events in New Hampshire during the past year than Trump, but the former president's team is betting that its on-the-ground organization will more than make up the difference Tuesday night.

What they're saying: Steve Duprey, a former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party who endorsed Haley and voted for Joe Biden in 2020, told CNN on Monday that Trump's team is "one of the most highly organized presidential primary campaigns I have seen in a couple of decades."

  • He said it's a dramatic contrast from Trump's 2016 operation, which was far more oriented around his celebrity.
  • Chris Ager, the current state party chair who is neutral in the race, told reporters at a Bloomberg event this weekend that Trump's team "appears to be one of the best run on-the-ground campaigns I've seen, maybe ever. … 2016 was the Wild West."

Trump spokesperson Karoline Leavitt, a New Hampshire native, told Axios she agreed the team is much stronger than past Trump campaigns in the state: "We definitely do have the most robust and organized ground game of any Trump team."

  • With bravada, she added: "We can't be stopped. I'd hate to be on the other team."

Between the lines: While Trump has set up a robust field program, his schedule has been lax compared to his rivals over the past year.

  • Even in the final week before the primary, Haley did several events a day while Trump mostly did just one big rally in the evening.
  • Haley has also had the support of Americans for Prosperity Action — a conservative group with ties to big donors — which claims it has spoken to people in 210,000 households in New Hampshire.

Zoom in: Trump officials say the organizing principle behind their program is "customer service."

  • The campaign frequently rewards top volunteers with VIP tickets to rallies, pictures with Trump, signed Trump hats and other prizes.
  • Campaign officials speculate that the rewards system comes in part from Trump's hotelier background.
  • Pro-Trump literature at his headquarters in Manchester focused on familiar themes such as protecting Social Security and Medicare, but also on issues such as drug addiction — particularly potent in New Hampshire as the state grapples with an opioid crisis.
  • Since Trump entered the race in November 2022 — months before Haley or most of his other major rivals — his team was able to begin organizing in the spring of 2023.

What's next: The Trump campaign is now keenly focused on its ground game in Nevada, where Trump has opted to participate in the caucus and not the state's primary, which is held on a different date (the primary has symbolic value but delegates are awarded based on the caucus results).

  • "The biggest issue we have in Nevada is educating Republicans that if you want to vote for Donald Trump, you've got to do it in the caucus, not the primary," said top Trump aide Chris LaCavita, who has helped orchestrate the field programs.
  • The campaign may invest in similar caucus training books in Nevada as it did in the Iowa caucuses, since caucuses operate differently than primaries.
  • Later this week, Trump will go to Las Vegas to speak at his campaign's Commit to Caucus event.
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