MANCHESTER, N.H. — For nearly eight months, Donald Trump has talked winning. If he is president, the country will finally win on trade, on health care, on education, on jobs and against terrorists. Under his leadership, Trump likes to say, there will be so much winning that some Americans will beg him to stop winning so much.
And that’s why it’s crucial for Trump to triumph in the New Hampshire Republican primary Tuesday, proving to both supporters and critics that his second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses last week was just a fluke.
The real estate mogul has admitted some missteps in Iowa, saying that he could have won if he had invested in a stronger turnout effort, spent more time in the state or attended the Des Moines debate. His staff and volunteers are now rushing to implement a ground game in New Hampshire that can convert his double-digit lead in the polls into a first-place finish.
“It’s something I’d like to win,” Trump told reporters last week. “I’ve been here a lot; I have great relationships with the people of New Hampshire.”
When asked what losing again might mean for his campaign, Trump responded: “I don’t think in terms of losing.”
While other Republican candidates have focused solely on New Hampshire in recent days, Trump has continued to bounce around the country, holding a rally in Arkansas on Wednesday night and South Carolina on Friday night in addition to his New Hampshire events. This led rival Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, and others to criticize Trump for seeming to disappear from New Hampshire for long stretches at a crucial time.
When he is in the state, Trump tries to pack several events into a single day, which can be a logistics headache for his 15 New Hampshire staffers and the U.S. Secret Service agents charged with protecting him and screening his audiences. On Thursday, Trump attended two rallies and a televised town hall hosted by CNN in addition to meeting with about 100 local business owners and stopping by a police station during its shift change. On Sunday, Trump stopped by a diner in Manchester for breakfast and a hot chocolate and then held a large rally in Plymouth, although he seemed weary and subdued. For Monday, Trump has four public events scheduled, including a rally in Manchester that could attract as many as 12,000.
As the Iowa caucus results came in on Feb. 1, those in Trump’s New Hampshire headquarters grew quiet, then turned off the televisions and got back to work. Although Trump finished in second place — a feat deemed impossible by many just a few months ago — it was not the finish he and his supporters wanted or that the latest polls had promised.
In the days that followed, a sense of urgency settled upon Trump’s operation here in Manchester, located on the second floor of an aging office building and decorated with framed photos of Trump and motivational quotes: “Great leaders determine the teams they assemble.”
Campaign manager Corey Lewandowski moved his temporary office from Iowa to Manchester, taking over a back room decorated with a dirty fish tank and a musket. Volunteers arrived from Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New York and elsewhere. They were given free lodging, meals and some travel expenses, along with “potential opportunities to be near Mr. Trump,” according to a recruitment e-mail.
Volunteers were put to work making phone calls to Republicans who don’t usually vote in primaries, canvassing neighborhoods and assisting with events. Unlike in Iowa, where Trump’s ground game was a closely guarded secret, the campaign invited a group of journalists to visit its Manchester office last week and interview volunteers such as Kevin Bray, a 51-year-old salesman from Missouri who drove 20 hours to New Hampshire the day after Trump came in second place in Iowa.
“I woke up the day after Iowa, about 10 in the morning, and said to myself: ‘Cruz hijacked Iowa.’ Made me really mad,” Bray said, referring to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.). “The Trump people had told me they’d set up my phone for me so I could do calls from home, but I said, ‘Nope, I want to be a part of this.’ ”
The campaign has seven call centers in New Hampshire. Plus, volunteers can work from home; those in other states have been pitching in. The campaign aims to make roughly 30,000 calls per day and sometimes many more, often using a script that includes this line: “We will make America great again.”
Teams of canvassers try to visit at least 2,500 homes each day — and as many as 5,000 per day over the weekend — and leave information about Trump on doors. So far, the campaign has gone through 20,000 such fliers and had to order another 25,000 late last week.
Trump and his staff are hopeful that New Hampshire will be different than Iowa. The state has same-day registration and polls are open from early in the morning until late into the evening, unlike the Iowa caucuses that required voters to be in line by 7 p.m. for one shot at participating. Plus, New Hampshire is half the size and population of Iowa and has fewer evangelical voters, who were seen as part of the key to Cruz’s victory.
Trump’s team expects a large turnout Tuesday and is targeting Republicans who rarely vote in primaries — as well as independents, including some deciding between Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
“I feel good, I feel fine, I mean, we have what we have,” Trump said when asked about his New Hampshire organization Thursday. “People like us. We seem to be doing very well. You know, here, it’s a little bit less about a ground game.”
Since the Iowa caucuses, Trump has refocused on the issues that have defined his candidacy: immigration, national security, trade and bringing jobs back from overseas. In between his usual bombast and cursing, Trump has taken a more positive tone and is slamming his opponents less often. He largely stayed in the background at Saturday night’s Republican debate.
The campaign released an ad on Wednesday that captures the feeling of Trump’s big arena rallies and features minority supporters explaining why they like Trump. It’s a counterintuitive ad for a campaign that has been cast as appealing only to angry, frustrated whites. The campaign plans to spend $850,000 getting that ad on television, an amount that pales in comparison to what other campaigns are spending.
“I think what people want is, they want hope,” Lewandowski said in an interview on Wednesday. “It’s African Americans, it’s Hispanics, it’s veterans, it’s young people, it’s everybody across the board saying: ‘We want Trump because we want to fix the country.’ ”
One other asset that Trump has in New Hampshire is Lewandowski, who lives about 20 miles from the Manchester office in the town of Windham. Lewandowski spent years organizing in the state while working for Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group heavily funded by billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch. Trump has long seemed more organized here than in Iowa and has locked down statewide co-chairs plus leaders for each of the 10 counties and the state’s major cities and towns.
“It’s good to be home — I miss home,” Lewandowski said. “The familiarity of the people and the close relationships that I’ve had here in New Hampshire for 15-plus years, I think, is going to help us make sure that we have the right organization in place, the right ground game in place.”
Trump finishes many of his rally speeches with a promise to “start winning again.”
“We’re going to win on every aspect, everything we do,” he said at a rally in Portsmouth, N.H., last week. “We’re going to have so many victories. We just can’t fail any more. We don’t have the option to fail any more.”
But first, Trump has to win.
“It’s very important: February 9th, you’ve got to get out and vote,” Trump said, telling the crowd to not assume that he will win without their votes. “We’ve got to create a mandate. We have to create victory.”
Robert Costa in Manchester, N.H., contributed to this report.