Other Republican Hopefuls to Campaign at July 4 Parade, Trump Absent

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It’s the final Fourth of July before the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary — still more than six months away, yes. But all the same, the Republicans vying for their party’s presidential nomination were on the trail, waving to supporters from parades, shaking hands with voters and taking selfies.

But not the front-runner: Donald J. Trump was conspicuously absent on the 247th anniversary of the nation’s independence.

Trump’s Unconventional Approach

The former president has upended the traditional expectations of Iowa and New Hampshire voters. For decades they have prided themselves on their discernment of presidential candidates and have demanded to get to know them personally before casting the first ballots in the nation.

Steven Cheung, a spokesman for Mr. Trump’s 2024 campaign, objected to the notion that the former president is avoiding retail politics over the Fourth of July holiday, pointing to Mr. Trump’s rally in South Carolina on Saturday, which, he said, counted as Independence Day weekend. Mr. Trump also appeared at the Moms for Liberty conference in Philadelphia on Friday, and he even dropped by Pat’s King of Steaks, a cheese steak palace that has been a mainstay for politicians in Philly for decades.

Trump’s Future Plans

And this Friday the former president will be in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

But on the actual anniversary of the nation’s birth?

“His campaign will have an overwhelming presence in various parades and patriotic events in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina,” Mr. Cheung said.

Mr. Trump himself, though, planned to spend the day with his family, Mr. Cheung said.

Trump’s Celebrity Status

For early-state Republican voters who hoped for more personal attention on the Fourth, the pickings were plentiful — with the exception of Mr. Trump. Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida and several other Republican presidential hopefuls spent Tuesday in New Hampshire, while Mike Pence, the former vice president, was in Iowa.

Trump’s Dominant Position

Mr. Trump’s campaign evinces no concern that his absence from the stage will give his rivals any room to make up ground in the Republican primaries. After queries about his July 4 plans, his team released a memo Monday afternoon highlighting his campaign’s plans to celebrate the holiday in Iowa and New Hampshire — and calling out his dominant position in Republican primary polling.

Republican veterans don’t see much of an opening for Mr. Trump’s rivals either.

Trump’s Unique Approach

“He definitely plays by a different set of rules,” said David Kochel, a longtime Republican adviser and strategist in Iowa. Mr. Trump has made some recent adjustments with unscheduled stops at restaurants like Pat’s and, after his arraignment on the first federal felony charges ever levied on a former president, at Versailles, Miami’s beloved Cuban restaurant. He will be appearing with virtually the entire G.O.P. field at the Republican Party of Iowa’s biggest fund-raiser, the Lincoln Dinner, on July 28.

“But,” Mr. Kochel said, “his celebrity and the fact that he was president gives him more flexibility.”

The retail politics tradition in Iowa and New Hampshire may well be overrated, an artifact of a time before super PACs saturated airwaves, social media reached voters’ phones and celebrity pervaded the zeitgeist, regardless of who was in the diners and pizza joints.

“Retail has always been mostly theater, but now it’s all a performance for the cameras, not about meeting regular people and listening to their concerns,” said Fergus Cullen, a former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee.

Importance of Personal Interaction

For someone like Mr. DeSantis, who joined the primary campaign relatively late, appearances like his two July 4 parades do demonstrate that he is putting in the effort and taking New Hampshire seriously, said Mr. Cullen, who is now a Republican consultant in the state.

As for the former president, “Can you imagine Trump walking in the Wolfeboro Fourth of July parade?” he asked. “I don’t think so.”

Limiting Mr. Trump’s public appearances and emphasizing large rallies over glad-handing with a few dozen supporters may help to preserve the former president’s celebrity and mystique among his faithful while projecting confidence. And Republican primary voters already know how they feel about the former president. His fate in the primary contest may depend more on external factors — like his indictments in two cases and the trials that may ensue, as well as other inquiries he is facing — than on his power of persuasion at an Iowa Pizza Ranch.

Mr. Cheung insisted, even as he outlined a relatively sparse schedule for Mr. Trump,“It would be incorrect to write that he will be sparing retail politics.”

Opportunity for Rivals

But the rest of the Republican field, with weaker field operations and later starts, do not have that luxury, said Dave Carney, another New Hampshire Republican consultant and veteran organizer.

For those laboring to break out of the pack, Mr. Trump’s absence on July 4 presented a moment to introduce themselves to at least a few voters in person.

“Today is about meeting people, right?” Mr. Hurd said. “Not everybody is doom scrolling on social media or consuming cable news.”

Read More of this Story at www.nytimes.com – 2023-07-04 20:27:29

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