Trump eyes a state no Republican has carried in a quarter century amid Biden post-debate turmoil

Trump aims to expand the 2024 presidential election map as Biden struggles following last week's disastrous debate performance

NEWFIELDS, N.H. — It's been 24 years since a Republican carried the swing state of New Hampshire in a presidential election.

You have to go back to then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush in 2000. Four years later, as he won re-election, then-President Bush was narrowly edged in the Granite State, kicking off a losing streak that has extended to the present day.

But in the wake of two recent polls that indicated a margin-of-error race in New Hampshire and following President Biden's extremely rough debate performance nine days ago in his first primetime face-to-face showdown with former President Trump, Republicans are increasingly hopeful they can bring an end to the losing streak.


Trump after New Hampshire win

Former President Donald Trump speaks as he celebrates a victory in New Hampshire's Republican presidential primary in Nashua, New Hampshire, on Jan. 23. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

"I firmly believe that New Hampshire is very much in play," Steve Stepanek, the senior Trump adviser in the state, told Fox News.

Former longtime state party chair and former Democratic National Committee member Kathy Sullivan disagreed, spotlighting that "New Hampshire is not Trump-friendly territory" and that "there’s nothing changing the dynamic now in terms of Biden versus Trump in New Hampshire." 


Since the start of the general election rematch between Biden and Trump four months ago, much of the campaign spotlight has shined on the seven key battlegrounds that decided the 2020 election. Those states include Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, Arizona and Nevada — which Biden narrowly carried four years ago — and North Carolina, which Trump won by a razor-thin margin.

Starting in May, Trump's campaign started eyeing Minnesota and Virginia, two blue-leaning states in presidential contests, with his top advisers saying they were "clearly in play."

Trump headlined a Minnesota GOP fundraising gala later that month, and last week, on the day after his debate with Biden, Trump held a large rally in Virginia.

Joe Biden, Donald Trump

Former President Trump and President Biden face off at a debate in Atlanta on June 27. (Getty Images)

placeholderThe debate was a major setback for Biden, who at 81 is the oldest president in the nation's history. His halting delivery and stumbling answers at the showdown in Atlanta sparked widespread panic in the Democratic Party and sparked a rising tide of calls from within his own party for him to step aside as its 2024 standard-bearer.

Fighting back, Biden is now aiming to show Americans that he still has the stamina and acuity to handle the toughest and most demanding job in the world and prove that he has the energy and fortitude to defeat Trump.


Earlier this week, well-known non-partisan political handicapper Sabato’s Crystal Ball shifted two key states towards Trump in the wake of the debate.

Michigan was shifted from "Leans Democrat" to "Toss-up" and Minnesota was moved from "Likely Democrat" to "Leans Democrat."

In New Hampshire, a poll conducted after the debate by the Saint Anselm College Survey Center suggested that Trump was edging Biden by two points, which was within the survey's sampling error. The poll followed a survey conducted in late May by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center which indicated Biden with a lower single-digit edge.

"I do think we are now in a battleground," said Neil Levesque, executive director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. "You are likely to see states that are similar to ours that show it’s tied up or Trump has the lead."

President Biden holding microphone

President Biden speaks to supporters during a visit to a campaign field office in Manchester, New Hampshire, on March 11. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

But pointing to the new poll, Levesque told Fox News that "the good news for Biden is he’s weak with the people who self-describe as very liberal. Just 67% support. That means, in the end, most likely many of those people are going to vote for Biden even if they don’t want to admit it right now."

New England College president Wayne Lesperance, a veteran New Hampshire-based political science professor, also said that the state "is in play."

"Biden’s performance at the most recent debate has pushed Democrats to question his ability to campaign, win and govern. Recent polls in New Hampshire point to continued rock-solid support by Republicans for Trump. Democratic support seems to be faltering with some looking at independent candidates," Lesperance noted. "As long as questions remain about Biden’s ability to go forward, the President will continue to bleed support, putting the Granite State in play."


While the polls indicate a close contest in a state Biden carried by seven points over Trump four years ago, the Democrats currently hold a very large organizational advantage over the GOP when it comes to ground-game operations.

The Biden re-election team and the state Democratic coordinated campaign have 14 field offices across New Hampshire, with boots on the ground since January. Meanwhile, the Trump team and the GOP currently have one field office in addition to the campaign's state headquarters.

"New Hampshire Democrats will continue to use our robust, grassroots campaign infrastructure to reach Granite Staters in every corner of New Hampshire to ensure we come together and re-elect President Biden and Vice President Harris in November — the stakes could not be higher," longtime state Democratic Party chair Ray Buckley emphasized in a statement.

But Stepanek, who chaired Trump's 2016 campaign in New Hampshire before later serving as state GOP chair, touted that "there’s an army of Trump supporters out there, and they’re all coming out."

"It’s going to be a turnout situation, and we feel we have a very significant ground game that’s going to turnout not only all the Trump supporters but all the Republicans and independents leaning Republican in spite of all the things the Democrats have on the ground here in New Hampshire," Stepanek predicted.

And he argued that the Democrats "have a significant enthusiasm gap that they are contending with, and we don’t have that."

As for specifics on how the Trump campaign will build out its ground game in New Hampshire, Stepanek answered, "My game plan I can’t tell you because it’s confidential."

Sullivan, a top Biden surrogate in New Hampshire, shot back, claiming that when it comes to ground-game operations, "Republicans always say they're going to do something, and they never follow through."

Sullivan pointed to the Democrats' "incredibly strong ground game and seeing nothing on the ground from the Trump campaign." She also spotlighted that "the issues like abortion, the Republicans are just not in the mainstream."

"Between the ground game, the issues, the spending by the Biden campaign and the lack of any presence by the Trump campaign, I don’t see the Republicans catching up," she predicted.

Supporters of the write-in Joe Biden effort in the New Hampshire primary stand for a photo in Concord, New Hampshire, on Jan. 19.

Supporters of the write-in Joe Biden effort in the New Hampshire primary stand for a photo in Concord, New Hampshire, on Jan. 19. (Fox News - Clare O'Connor)

Sullivan also highlighted that they "got a real good head start when we had the write-in Biden effort," as she referenced the outside effort by state Democrats that boosted the president to a large victory in New Hampshire's unsanctioned Democratic presidential primary in January, where Biden wasn't on the ballot.

And in a state where Trump's GOP presidential primary rival, former U.N. ambassador and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, won 43% of the vote — losing to Trump by only 11 points — Sullivan noted that "the Biden campaign is going to be reaching out to moderate to conservative Republicans who understand what a danger Donald Trump is to our democracy."

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