New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said Monday that he’s “pleased” that President Trump’s campaign will hand out face masks and hand sanitizer to people arriving at Saturday’s Trump reelection rally in Portsmouth, N.H.
The Granite State’s Republican governor stressed that “it’s imperative that folks attending the rally wear masks.”
The campaign rally – at Pease International Airport – will be the president's second since the coronavirus pandemic swept across the country in March, forcing most Americans to huddle in their homes to prevent the spread of the virus and triggering the freefall of much of the nation’s economy.
When announcing the event over the weekend, the Trump campaign emphasized that “there will be ample access to hand sanitizer and all attendees will be provided a face mask that they are strongly encouraged to wear.”
Sununu drove that point home on Monday – saying in a statement that “I am pleased to see the campaign will be handing out face masks and hand sanitizer to all attendees, as has been true at all public gatherings in NH where social distancing is hard to maintain. It is imperative that folks attending the rally wear masks.”
The statement also spotlighted that “if the Governor greets the President at the airport, he will be wearing a mask.”
Unlike last month’s rally in Tulsa, Okla. – where the predicted large crowds never materialized, leaving portions of the arena’s upper level empty as the president addressed the crowd – Saturday’s event will be an outdoor rally.
Attendees for Saturday’s New Hampshire rally must accept the same disclaimer used for the Tulsa rally, which states they waive their rights to take legal action against the Trump campaign if they contract COVID-19.
With the nation’s death toll from the pandemic surpassing 130,000, public health officials continued to urge Americans to avoid large crowds, social distance and wear masks when in close proximity to other people.
The rally is being held as a majority of states across the country are experiencing spikes in new coronavirus cases. And the three most populous states, California, Texas and Florida, as well as a other states including Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, are now dealing with surges after relaxing restrictions in the past month. Overall – more than 20 states have paused or reversed moves to reduce restrictions.
It’s a different story in New Hampshire, which is one of only a handful of states where the number of new cases of coronavirus has declined in recent weeks.
Sununu’s a supporter of the president and enjoys a close working relationship with Vice President Mike Pence. But he’s also running for reelection for a third two-year term steering New Hampshire, which is very much a purple state and a key general election battleground.
The statement did not indicate whether or not Sununu would attend the rally or meet the president. It noted that the governor’s scheduled is “still being finalized” but added that in “the past, the Governor has greeted the President upon arrival at the airport.”
The president’s trip is his first to New Hampshire in five months. The last time he was here, he made a prediction.
Speaking to a jam-packed crowd inside Manchester’s downtown arena on Feb. 10 on the eve of the state’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary, Trump vowed that “we are going to win New Hampshire in a landslide.”
Fast forward five months – and much has changed.
The pandemic has jolted the country. And America’s experienced massive protests the past six weeks over police brutality and the nation’s struggle with systemic racism, sparked by the death in May of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
There are still four months to go until Election Day in November – which is an eternity in campaign politics – but the most recent public opinion polls in many of the key battleground states indicate presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden topping Trump.
That includes New Hampshire, where the most recent live telephone operator poll from the Saint Anselm College Survey Center put the former vice president up seven points over the GOP incumbent in the White House.
But Trump Victory – which is the combined forces of the president’s re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee – has a strong presence in the state – with nearly 30 staffers on the ground and growing.
New Hampshire has long been an important political state for the president. After narrowly losing the 2016 Iowa caucuses, Trump won New Hampshire’s primary by double digits, which launched him towards winning the GOP presidential nomination and eventually the White House.
But Trump narrowly lost the state’s four electoral votes in the general election – after being edged out by less than 3,000 votes by 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
New Hampshire – along with New Mexico, Nevada, and Minnesota – is one of the states that the Trump campaign last year said they hoped to flip from blue to red.
A GOP strategist close to the Trump campaign told Fox News, “I always think it’s been part of their plan to place emphasis on New Hampshire.”
Noting that New Hampshire also borders Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, which Trump carried four years ago, the consultant said that “if you look at New Hampshire just cost wise, it makes a lot of sense. It’s a good place to pick up some votes.”
Longtime Republican strategist Dave Carney – a veteran of numerous GOP presidential campaigns who’s based in New Hampshire – emphasized that “with 125 days to go until the election, it’s a good idea to come here to New Hampshire to test their message.”
Carney noted the polls but said the Trump campaign “certainly can turn it around.”
He added: “It’s up to the president’s campaign to come up with a message and deliver it and assess how that works. They have a lot of work cut out for them.”