In New Hampshire, we don’t care if you’re a former president, a sitting governor, or the King of England. If you want our vote, we expect you to show up.
When USA TODAY and Seacoastonline hosted a series of political town halls for all the presidential candidates last week, there were some notable absences. The most obvious was former President Donald Trump who has adopted Joe Biden’s campaign-from-the-basement strategy this time around.
Another notable absence was Florida Governor Ron DeSantis who finally came back to New Hampshire after an eight-week hiatus. Like Trump, he has shied away from events that put him at the mercy of the voters, skipping the Exeter town hall and perpetuating a narrative that he’s not willing to face the tough questions. Previously, he went to great lengths to avoid questions from 15-year-old Quinn Mitchell, a staple on the New Hampshire campaign trail, and even DeSantis’ own supporters have begged him to spend more time in the Granite State.
No surprise here, he skipped a similar type of town hall event in Iowa—the Iowa State Fair Political Soapbox hosted by the Des Moines Register. Trump declined to appear at that event, too.
So who did show up in Exeter
Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley happily answered voters’ questions on topics ranging from Hamas’ brutality against Israel, to taking care of our veterans, to how we can expand the Republican Party. Thanks to her hard work and strong debate performance, Haley has risen to second place in New Hampshire, surging past DeSantis. She has hosted and attended nearly 60 campaign events in New Hampshire since her campaign launch and is well-known for answering voters’ questions on every topic under the sun. Eight months ago, she promised voters, “We will earn every vote,” and she is delivering on her promise.
Haley’s presence is felt throughout the Granite State. She has traveled to all 10 counties, including the hard-to-reach northern counties, and unveiled a list of county chairs and local activists working on her behalf.
Her toughness and determinative character wins voters in this scrappy state. As does her promise to “get government out of our lives” because in New Hampshire we’d rather “live free or die.”
The other candidates should take note. For those who think they can mail it in and still win in New Hampshire, they have another thing coming.
Hampshire is the kind of state where voters expect to talk to the candidates, because that’s what we’ve done for the past 100 years. Some voters don’t make up their minds until they’ve met a candidate at least three times. Well-known New Hampshire politico Jim Merrill recently told CNN New Hampshire “demands a level of intimacy from the candidates.” And Governor Chris Sununu advised, “Granite Staters reward those who spend time here and connect with them one-by-one.”
Right now, Haley is the only top-tier candidate putting in the time and effort in New Hampshire, and it’s paying off. Attendance at her events is growing, along with her poll numbers and list of endorsements. Her momentum in the state is real and it’s because she has put in the work for eight months like New Hampshire primary voters expect. If you want to earn New Hampshire’s votes, prove it. Show up.