🔴 Former President Donald Trump makes his second campaign stop in New Hampshire on Thursday

🔴 Trump has large leads in two polls of New Hampshire Republican primary voters

🔴 Gov. Chris Sununu called Trump a "loser" on Sunday's Meet the Press

With a comfortable lead in two polls released during the past week, former President Donald Trump will make his second New Hampshire trip of the 2024 presidential campaign Thursday after Governor Chris Sununu called him a "loser" on NBC's Meet the Press.

A J.L. Partners poll of likely Republican voters in New Hampsire gave Trump a huge 51%-18% lead over Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, with Governor Chris Sununu at 10%. Trump has a 42-22% lead over DeSantis in a new Granite State Poll conducted by the UNH Survey Center, with Sununu the choice of 12%.

The J.L. Partners poll surveyed 623 likely Republican primary voters, while the UNH poll asked three times the number of voters at 1,886.

Trump's event at the Armory at the DoubleTree Manchester Thursday is the same location where DeSantis made his first New Hampshire appearance.  SNHU Civic Scholar and founder of NH Political Capital Dean Spiliotes says the Granite State offers a friendly east coast audience.

"I just think it's more convenient and politically a better match than Iowa. And if he wants to get the nomination again, he's going to have to continue to do some retail events. He typically flies in does a big speech or rally and then flies out," Spiliotes told Seacoast Current.

Trump's first campaign appearance of his 2024 presidential campaign was at the state Republican Party convention in January.

It remains to be seen how DeSantis' strategy of running to the right of Trump on issues like abortion and entitlement will play to New Hampshire Republicans.

"I'm not the first person to notice that DeSantis is running so hard to the right in order to try to slice off some of the some of the Republican primary base, that in an odd way provides an opportunity for Trump to kind of position himself in the primary as a little bit more mainstream in some respects," Spiliotes said.

Sununu: 'Donald Trump is a loser'

Sununu has continued to be critical of Trump, and had said many times he does not expect him to be the party presidential nominee. He called Trump a "loser" during Sunday's Meet the Press, not only because he lost the 2020 presidential election.

"He lost our House seats in 2018, he lost everything in '20, we should have 54 U.S. Senators right now. We don't because of his message. Donald Trump is positioning himself to be a four-time loser in 2024," Sununu said.

At the same time, he has said as a Republican, he would vote for his party's nominees much like he supported Don Bolduc in the U.S. Senate race after bashing him in the primary in 2022. That position could become a problem for Sununu.

"At some point, that kind of lesser of two evils argument kinda isn't plausible anymore. So I don't think he's there yet, but he's kind of moving in that direction where it's gonna be increasingly hard for him to maintain both positions at the same time," Spiliotes said.

The governor has spent a lot of time in the national media spotlight with almost regular appearances on Fox News and CNN, as he decides on his own White House run. He flew to California for an interview on Bill Mahar's HBO program, and addressed the NRA's Leadership Forum in Indiana.

New Hampshire Democrats were critical of his appearance, coming after several school shootings and a threat against Portsmouth High School in which guns were found in trunk of the suspect's SUV.

Gov. Chris Sununu with Indian Ambassador to the United States Taranjit Singh Sandhu
Gov. Chris Sununu with Indian Ambassador to the United States
Taranjit Singh Sandhu (Gov. Chris Sununu)

When Will Sununu Decide?

Spiliotes said he doesn't expect Sununu to make a decision until at least June when the state budget process is wrapped up, and before the first Republican presidential debate scheduled for August in Milwaukee. The general public is not paying attention at this point, but campaign strategists, political elites, and donors are, according to Spiliotes.

"All those folks who are watching closely. At some point, you run the risk of not being able to sign on the people you want to sign on, because they go to other campaigns, but I don't think we're there yet. My guess is, if he's going to do it, it'll be sometime after he wraps up our bi-annual budget, which typically has to be done by mid June."

Chris Christie after his town hall at Saint Anselm College's NH Institute of Politics
Chris Christie after his town hall at Saint Anselm College's NH Institute of Politics (Saint Anselm College's NH Institute of Politics)

Chris Christie's Second Attempt?

Then there's former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who has said he will not support Trump. Christie was a close advisor to Trump through his first term, but then denounced the former president after Trump continued his allegation that the 2020 presidential election was "stolen" from him.

"We've talked a lot about some of the other potential candidates kind of tiptoeing around Trump not wanting to engage him, necessarily. Christie has been brutal out there lately in some of these speeches. Sununu has been increasingly open in his criticism," Spiliotes said. "Even Asa Hutchinson, the former Arkansas Governor who's in the race, he's also been critical of Trump. Maybe not quite with the same bombast as Christie, or Sununu. I think part of the competition is going to be who's going to be willing to go toe-to-toe with Trump?"

Christie also has detractors in New Hampshire, including former GOP First Congressional District candidate Karoline Leavitt, a strong Trump supporter.

"Chris Christie will never be president," Leavitt tweeted after an interview on WMUR. "For the good of our party and his own health, he should stay on the sidelines.

Christie cuts a rotund figure despite having bariatric surgery in 2013 after his 50th birthday. He initially dropped 40 pounds after the surgery.

So far, Christie has pulled up the rear in most polls, with a 2% showing in the R.L. Partners poll and 1% in the UNH poll.

Nikki Haley during a campaign appearance at Saint Anselm College's NH Institute of Politics
Nikki Haley during a campaign appearance at Saint Anselm College's NH Institute of Politics (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Who's in the Race?

Neither DeSantis nor Sununu have officially announced presidential campaigns.

Besides Trump, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, and former Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton are the other announced Republicans in the 2024 presidential race. South Carolina Senator Tim Scott has formed an exploratory committee and campaigned in New Hampshire.

On the Democratic side, there's author Marianne Williamson and Robert F. Kennedy Jr, son of late New York Sen. Robert Kennedy. President Joe Biden is widely expected to announce his candidacy during the coming week.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNH

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