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DERRY, N.H. – “Vote for Trump, solve your problems.”
That’s the message former President Donald Trump wrote on a commemorative poster Monday as he filed to appear on New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation Republican primary ballot, joining eight other GOP candidates who’ve signed up.
For Trump supporters waiting 29 miles away at the New England Sports Center in Derry, New Hampshire, where the businessman was slated to speak hours later, it was more than just a quip. It served as a rallying cry and a key reason they planned to back the businessman-turned-presidential candidate in the primary later this year.
Many voters USA TODAY spoke with in line for the event said they favored Trump in the 2024 race both despite and because of indictments in four ongoing criminal trials against him.
“He's the only man to do the job that’s in front of us,” said Chris Wood, a 65-year-old child support officer from Concord, New Hampshire.
Wood was standing near the front of a line that stretched the length of the indoor sports complex.
“I won't stand for anybody being persecuted the way he's been persecuted. He doesn’t deserve it. The least I can do is give him my vote, but damn, he’s getting it,” she said.
Trump’s filing and rally came just days after he received grim news in his Fulton County, Georgia case related to an alleged conspiracy to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Two of his former attorneys, Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro, cut plea deals in the high-profile case that requires them to testify at the trials of their co-defendants, potentially including Trump.
Political figures on both the left and right have highlighted the criminal charges in warnings to voters of what another Trump presidency could bring. Former Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., for instance, called Trump the “single most dangerous threat” facing the country during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday.
On a press call before Trump’s filing, New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan similarly argued that the state had “no use for a man who would overturn our elections or praise dictators.”
“I know that as Granite Staters and Americans, we will reject Trump and we will win next November,” Hassan said.
However, the state’s GOP voters are largely embracing the former president. The latest Suffolk University/Boston Globe/USA TODAY survey in New Hampshire showed Trump with nearly 50% support. He led his closest competitor, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, by close to 30 points.
Here’s a look at what’s driving that support, according to voters at the New Hampshire rally.
They see Trump as a ‘man for the people’
While voters in Trump’s base don’t necessarily like his at-times bombastic and crude speaking style, they say it’s not what’s motivating them.
“I mean, he's a jerk. Nobody likes him,” Cathlene Harvey, a 73-year-old resident of Epping, New Hampshire, told USA TODAY, adding that she believes he was one of the best U.S. presidents. “He’s taken care of everything that he promised he was going to take care of and I felt safe while he was president."
The sentiment was echoed up and down the line of rally attendees, including by Audrey Wendell, a political tourist who drove two hours from her home in East Providence, Rhode Island to hear Trump speak.
“I have always been a Trump supporter from day one. He is a man for the people,” Wendell said. Unlike other political candidates, she believes Trump speaks to the issues the American people care about most.
Mounting concerns about the economy
One of those subjects is the economy – particularly as it relates to energy prices.
New Hampshire ranks second nationally for the number of residents that use oil to heat their homes. And many residents have acutely felt fluctuations in energy costs.
Ken and Diane Galvin, a couple from Derry who plan to retire in the coming months, say the costs of fuel are partially motivating their support for Trump. In particular, Diane Galvin said she’s worried about the impact of energy costs on her two, 30-year-old children.
“Everything is so high now, they have to dip into their savings,” Galvin said. “And they both work really hard.”
On the campaign trail, including at his New Hampshire rally stop, Trump has argued that in a second term, he would decrease costs by leading the U.S. to “energy dominance.”
“When I step in as president we will unleash the most powerful weapon: Drill baby drill,” he said to boisterous cheers and whistles from the MAGA-clad crowd packed into the sports center.
Believe in ‘America first’ now more than ever
Since the early days of his 2016 campaign, Trump’s calls for an America-first agenda have struck a chord with voters across the country. As wars in Israel and Ukraine rage on, this year is no exception.
“We’re borrowing billions of dollars to give other people money” Claudia Miller said, criticizing the Biden administration’s foreign policy agenda. She and other voters USA TODAY spoke to at the Trump rally said they’d prefer the next U.S. president to focus more on building jobs for people in this country.
And while Trump has largely maintained his America first agenda, he didn’t say his administration would back away from foreign commitments altogether during his address in Derry.
“To every American who is terrified that Crooked Joe’s weakness will cause catastrophic global conflict, it already is, I make you this promise: as your president, I will restore peace through strength —and I will prevent World War III,” Trump said to resounding applause.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump is officially on the ballot in NH: 3 reasons GOP voters want him