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Trump holds a rally in New Hampshire in an effort to solidify early primary support

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Former President Trump visited New Hampshire today. His campaign is increasing efforts to solidify support in crucial early primary states. His visit comes as Nikki Haley is gaining steam in New Hampshire. And it's a state that some Republican leaders see as the best last chance to disrupt the former president's lead. But those waiting in line to hear Trump speak at a high school in Wolfeboro did not seem worried. We are going to go to Wolfeboro now, which is where we find NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez. Hey there.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Hey, Mary Louise.

KELLY: Hey, Franco. So Trump is riding really high in the polls. Why is his campaign pulling out the stops in New Hampshire?

ORDOÑEZ: You know, look. I mean, there is a difference with New Hampshire. I mean, in Iowa, it's a lot more conservative. It's more evangelical. Voters in New Hampshire, Republican voters, though, are known to have an independent streak. So you have to take a bit of a different approach. And the state has a history of bucking national trends. There's also some uncertainty in New Hampshire because of the primary system. You don't have to be a Republican to vote in the primary. You can be an independent. You can be a Democrat. So that means that the candidates have to approach New Hampshire a bit differently and have to think about potentially a broader audience than the base.

KELLY: So I mentioned you're there for this rally at a high school. Have you managed to speak to voters? What are they telling you?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah. I spoke to a lot of voters, and I talked to them about that kind of shifting ground. And they did not seem to be that worried about it. Here's Tim Carter, who I caught up with near the front of the line. He runs a home improvement website and writes a column. He was kind of pointing to the long line of people weaving through the parking lot as I spoke to him.

TIM CARTER: If Nikki Haley came here today, she would not have 5% of the people that you see right here, right now. She's a career politician. Trump is not a politician. That's why all of us love him. He is not a politician.

ORDOÑEZ: You know, I'll just note, Mary Louise, that I was at a local diner earlier in the day where I spoke to many voters about Haley and some of the other Republican candidates. And many of them had a lot of interest in Haley and thought she was just gaining momentum.

KELLY: Now, Trump has been attacking Biden over what's happening in Israel, the attacks there. What did voters you talked to say about that?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah. Trump actually in the rally today tried to blame the surprise attack by Hamas on Israel on Biden. You know, he called Biden a weak leader and cited the administration's decision to free up $6 billion in funds as part of the deal to free imprisoned Americans. I actually spoke to Debra and James Morse. She's a local realtor. He's a firefighter. She talked about that $6 billion, and he thought it would be different if Trump was in charge.

JAMES MORSE: You just need strong leadership and we don't have it. And I think, you know, if you've got a brain in your head, I think you realize that the U.S. wants to do right by everybody. But you've got to have strong leadership, and you've got to take care of yourself first and then help others.

ORDOÑEZ: Of course, the Biden administration says the money is for humanitarian needs and emphasized that none of it actually has been spent. But as we know, that hasn't stopped the political attacks. And some voters, at least Republican voters and Trump voters, are listening.

KELLY: NPR's Franco Ordoñez on the ground for us in New Hampshire. Thank you, Franco.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Franco Ordoñez is a White House Correspondent for NPR's Washington Desk. Before he came to NPR in 2019, Ordoñez covered the White House for McClatchy. He has also written about diplomatic affairs, foreign policy and immigration, and has been a correspondent in Cuba, Colombia, Mexico and Haiti.