Trump headquarters in Manchester, New Hampshire was abuzz with supporters Thursday night hoping to watch the Donald decimate his fellow debaters in the first Republican debate.
They certainly got some good laughs, in any case, as tepid interest in the other candidates was broken by raucous applause and laughter each time Trump tossed out zingers, including his negative response to the initial question about whether all on stage would commit to support the eventual Republican candidate, comebacks against Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, and dissing Rosie O’Donnell in response to concerns over his past comments about women.
Supporters who attended the Manchester debate party numbered around 50, and several I spoke to felt Trump stood his ground against unfair questions from moderators Megyn Kelly and Bret Baier during the face-time they gave to the billionaire real-estate mogul.
“They just want to just nail him and they can’t quite get it,” said supporter Paula Johnson, a former New Hampshire state representative for Nashua who attended to watch the debate on the large projector screen on the wall.
“They’re shutting down Carson and they’re shutting down Trump, and he’s right, most of them down in Washington, they all got money from him,” Johnson added.
Twenty-something supporter Ally Deeran said “I wish they’d ask him more questions,” while Joe Wysocki said he liked the center camera angle on Trump, someone he’s supported for years. “I’m all Trump, all day,” Wysocki said.
Donald Trump ‘Tells It Like It Is’
Trump continues to gain more momentum in polls across the nation and in the Granite State, something New Hampshire state co-chair Fred Doucette said is because Trump “tells it like it is.”
“I’m very excited about the campaign and I”m very excited about the possibility of him serving as our next president,” Doucette said. “I really think he can bring this country forward. He’s got a great plan.”
As a veteran-turned-firefighter-turned-politician, Doucette said Trump speaks his language.
“I’m a veteran myself in the Navy, prior to the fire department, and he understands veterans’ problems that we have and understands how to build a strong military and come from a position of power. He gets it and he’s going to follow through,” Doucette said.
Doucette acknowledged that Trump’s recent comments about Sen. John McCain were uncalled for and left a “sour taste” in his mouth, although he says Trump’s apology was “absolutely” sufficient for him and he believes the man is a strong supporter of veterans.
“We happen to have the one veterans’ hospital in the country that’s non-certified,” Doucette said of New Hampshire, adding that Trump is “acutely aware of that and it needs to be certified. Not that promises were made, but I have faith that the process.” Doucette noted, for example, that a veteran had to go to Roxbury, Massachusetts to get surgery not available at the Manchester hospital this past winter.
Working Donald Trump’s Field Campaign
Field Representative Zach Montanaro and New Hampshire State Director Matt Ciepielowski greeted the guests who began to stream in early. “A 17-candidate field with one guy at 30 percent, that’s insane,” Ciepielowski said in admiration of Trump, speaking to a supporter before the debate as pizza was delivered.
Campaign volunteer Matt Pitaro said working on the campaign is a great experience.
“I don’t even think of it as work because I’m having so much fun doing it,” Pitaro said, adding he worked on a successful Republican bid for office by Frank Guinta in the past. Pitaro said he became a fan of Trump due to Trump’s involvement in wrestling.
“Politically, I believe he actually has the successful track record to steer this country in the right direction,” he said. “He has good business sense. He has good instincts.”
Pitaro said seeing and hearing Trump speak made a big impression on him, as did Trump”s comments about taking care of New Hampshire veterans. In terms of healthcare, Doucette said he isn’t bothered that Trump is also “open to the discussion of universal healthcare” or other changes to the healthcare system.
Donald Trump’s ‘Silent Majority’
Supporter Ron VillaReale, who drove to Manchester from Cape Cod, rode over 5,000 miles on horseback in the 1980s to advocate for Vietnam prisoners of war.
“The silent majority is sitting there waiting for a leader,” VillaReale said. “He’s the first person since Teddy Roosevelt who has even bothered to act like a leader or even had any sense of what leadership really is.”
VillaReale said there are some other strong candidates in the Republican field, but most of those who go to Washington become part of the problem.
“This country’s been raped by politicians for too long,” he said, adding that the electorate needs to get more involved. Doucette, a first-term Republican New Hampshire state representative who is also labor whip, noted that he had been approached by three other top-ten campaigns whose candidate took the stage Thursday about joining on before he decided to commit to Trump.
“Mr. Trump pulls no punches. I’m sick of the politicians. I’m not a politician, although I’m becoming one with time here,” Doucette said. “He knows how to get business done and he knows how to negotiate … I believe the man when he says it. I’ve got a pretty good BS meter and I’ve spent some time multiple times with Mr. Trump and his people and my BS meter didn’t go off, so I believe he’s the real deal.”
Straight Talk on Immigration
Doucette said Trump’s signature issue of illegal immigration resounds across the country, including in New Hampshire.
“I live in a border town, Salem, and the town I grew up in, Lawrence, Massachusetts, it is 80 percent Hispanic and a lot of those are illegals,” Doucette said. “It floods over and it is – I can’t say we have a problem like they do in Arizona and New Mexico and Texas that kind of thing, but we all know what the issues are. A major issue is the heroin that’s coming. It’s coming from the southern border … We’re at epidemic proportions. I’ve lost family members myself.”
“He’s going to be tough on closing that border and keeping out those drugs,” Doucette said, adding that some of Trump’s comments about Mexico surprised him but when considering what they mean they make sense to him.
Sick of the Political Puppets
Doucette said he believes Trump intentionally underplayed expectations for the first GOP debate and will continue to surprise critics. In reacting to Trump’s performance in the debate, his supporters overall were predictably enthusiastic.
“I think he’s doing great. I love his wit and nothing fazes him,” Johnson said. “He’s just Mr. Trump.”
As for alliances, Johnson doesn’t like how the other candidates treat Trump, for the most part.
“Ted Cruz has been the nicest to him, he won’t speak ill of him, but if the other candidates had a chance they would just go after him,” Johnson said. “You listen to Megyn Kelly and Bret Baier, they just would like to put that noose around his neck and just get him off-guard, but you know he’s a businessman and he’s always got his guard up and he knows what to do … Everybody is riding his coattails now, and if they hadn’t done what they were doing in Washington we wouldn’t be in this mess right now, 100 percent.”
In terms of the future, Trump’s claims he’ll put large import tariffs on Mexican goods and related matters rang true for supporters including Joseph Smith, who said policies like that will restore America’s manufacturing and economic strength.
“He did great for his first debate, dealing with a lot of career politicians that are great at talking [with] little action,” he said. “A lot of them are just kind of puppets that pull strings in their back.” Trump in contrast, says “a lot of things that are true,” according to Smith, who has a background in the automotive industry and now works in sales.
Bring Jobs to America Through Trade Restrictions
Number one for Smith is Trump’s message about bringing jobs back to America and rebuilding its economy through trade.
“A tariff would push a lot of automobile makers to bring those factories back,” he said. “I know for a fact that a lot of those companies like Volkswagen there’s a lot of foreign companies that are over in Mexico building cars and they’ve been doing that for years and years and years … It would kind of force them to bring those automobile industries back to cities that need them.”
Smith said “a lot of people are pocketing a lot of money” from building cars in cheaper labor markets, so bringing the manufacturing back to the United States would not lead to dramatic price hikes. Smith did agree with Trump foe Chris Christie on one thing, however, as a former New Jersey resident now living in Manchester: “Everything that was said about New Jersey was completely accurate. It’s been a huge drain in terms of how the economy has failed there.”
Doucette also said Trump’s plans make sense to him but the specifics will have to come down the road.
“He needs to lay out his specifics and he’s going to lay them out. He has policy people, he has ideas,” Doucette said. “We’re not at liberty to talk about those things, but I have 110 percent faith in the man, I really do.”