President Donald Trump stepped off Air Force One and onto a stage in New Hampshire Sunday afternoon for a rally that aimed to win over voters in a swing state that's been tilting Democratic lately.
His Make America Great Again rally Pro Star Aviation in the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport ran for more than 90 minutes, with Trump calling out "fake news," expressing concern over mail-in voting, bashing Joe Biden, and promising a quick end to the coronavirus pandemic despite record numbers of cases reported this past week.
Cars were lined up outside the entrance by 7 a.m., and the crowd cheered Trump raucously.
"This is not the crowd that comes in second," Trump said. "It's like a poll, except much more accurate."
Recent polls have shown Trump losing in New Hampshire by about 10 points, and he didn't carry the state in 2016, either. But Trump has surged late in states before, and the coronavirus pandemic has added an extra layer of chaos to an already heavily contested election.
“I put it along the lines of the fake media...I believe everyone that voted him in ‘16 is still there. And I believe he’s gained a lot more,” Jackie Ford said of Trump trailing in the polls.
“Look at all the people that are here. This is packed. People are all excited,” Trump supporter Ronnie Schlender said of the turnout Sunday.
No one is arguing the enthusiasm on display at these Trump rallies. What’s unclear is if this is the same base Trump has always had or if it's part of a growing group that is simply not registering in many polls.
“What they don’t account for is what I call closet Trump supporters," New Hampshire GOP chair, Steve Stepanek, said. "And you just look at this crowd. They are coming out and we’re going to shock the world again.”
That certainly could happen, but that is not the outcome reflected in most of the polling in recent weeks which shows Biden up in several swing states.
In the stands behind Trump on the crisp fall Sunday, most people wore masks, many of which said, "MAGA," complimenting the many "Make America Great Again" hats.
After recounting the 2016 primary in the Granite State -- his first election win in politics -- Trump recalled his own coronavirus infection and hospitalization. He said that, after taking an experimental drug from the company Regeneron, "I felt like superman."
Trump also touted a new feature of his rallies in the final stretch before Nov. 3: a big screen, that he said was very expensive, on which he played clips attacking Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
Trump himself attacked Biden while reeling off his own accomplishments and promising new achievements, like a vaccine for the coronavirus and a record rise in U.S. economic production (which dropped by a historic amount earlier this year after the virus shut down parts of the economy).
"The best is yet to come. Proud citizens like you helped build this country and together we are taking back our country," he said.
The New Hampshire visit was initially scheduled to be the last stop on a four-state, two-day swing for the president on the second-to-last weekend before Election Day. On Saturday, Trump held rallies in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin.
But Trump flew to Bangor, Maine, after the New Hampshire rally, making a surprise stop at an apple orchard.
Trump arrived at the Treworgy Family Orchard in Levant at 3:34 p.m., according to a reporter who was with him. Supporters lined the streets along the route from Bangor, where he landed about half an hour earlier, to wave to the presidential motorcade.
While the orchard visit was not on his schedule, Maine is another state that could send electoral votes to Trump in the election.
New Hampshire and Maine have been a major focus of both the Republican and Democratic presidential campaigns, as they are seen as key swing states in this year's election.
Some with the Trump campaign say they won’t be surprised if the president returns to New Hampshire again before Election Day.
On Saturday, Doug Emhoff, the husband of Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, held a pair of events in New Hampshire as well, laying out the campaign’s closing argument for Granite State voters who may still be undecided.
“We are taking this state very seriously,” Emhoff told NBC10 Boston. “It’s a very critical state and we are putting the resources in.”
Doors opened at 10 a.m. and the event was initially set to start at 1 p.m., though the president's schedule listed the start time as 12:30 p.m. Those who planned on attending must register online.
On Sunday, the traditionally conservative newspaper the New Hampshire Union-Leader endorsed Biden for president in an editorial titled "Our choice is Joe Biden*."
While the editorial cited judicial appointments, tax policy and support for gun rights as accomplishments by the president, it took issue with the increase in national debt and the president's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
"President Trump is not always 100% wrong, but he is 100% wrong for America," the editorial said. "We may be turning a corner with this virus, but the corner we turned is down a dark alley of record infections and deaths. Mr. Trump is a self-proclaimed expert on a wide variety of topics, but when pushed on basic topics he doesn’t want to discuss, he very quickly feigns ignorance."
The newspaper had endorsed Republicans for president for a century until 2016, when it backed libertarian Gary Johnson.
Trump's visit to New Hampshire comes just four days after Vice President Mike Pence hosted a rally at Port City Air in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Late Saturday, it was reported that Pence's chief of staff tested positive for the coronavirus; the vice president has tested negative and plans to continue campaigning.
The last time the president was here was back in August, after the Republican National Convention.
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said he would try to greet the president when he arrived in the state Sunday but he wouldn’t be attending his rally or campaign events, saying he’s got a campaign of his own to run.
"We'll see how our schedules meet up. I'll make every effort to greet him, at a minimum, as the governor always should," he said ahead of the rally.
Sununu said that, although he was concerned about the spread of coronavirus at previous rallies, he's less worried this time around. He said Pence's rally earlier this week was outdoors, there was plenty of distance between seats and everyone was told that they had to wear a mask.
"From what I saw, they were taking the precautions they needed to take. It can be managed," Sununu said. "I think we've shown we can do it right, and if people follow the right protocols it can be done safely."