Trump defies early-state traditions

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BEDFORD, N.H. — Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump said Obama was 'looking like a hero' as ObamaCare passed Celeb chef campaigns for Clinton, slams Trump Polls tighten for Trump, Clinton MORE is making his own rules for campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire, ignoring early-state traditions in the process.

Iowa and New Hampshire take pride in their first-in-the-nation status. 

Small, intimate campaign events and coveted endorsements from state insiders are supposed to be part of the formula for doing well here. 

Candidates routinely lavish superlatives on Iowa and New Hampshire voters, highlighting how seriously people take their responsibility for weeding out the presidential race. 

Such steps are supposed to be necessary to do well in Iowa and New Hampshire, but Trump appears determined to challenge those conventions. 

In November, Trump actually insulted Iowa’s voters when details about Ben Carson’s autobiography came into question. 

“How stupid are the people of Iowa?” Trump said. “How stupid are the people of the country to believe this crap?”

Instead of backfiring on Trump, the comments became a piece of the context in Carson’s steady decline in polls. 

Once Iowa’s leader, Carson has slipped to single digits in the RealClearPolitics average of polls. Trump is a close second behind Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzCommerce official will hit critics of domain name transition The media is rigging the election by reporting WikiLeaks emails The Trail 2016: An important lesson in geography MORE (R-Texas) and has nearly triple the support of Carson. 

In New Hampshire, Trump throws regular punches at the state’s most prominent newspaper, The New Hampshire Union Leader. 

He’s ripped publisher Joe McQuaid — who endorsed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential bid. 

“McQuaid is Christie’s lapdog,” Trump said during a 10-minute rant about the paper at a Nashua, N.H., rally Monday night. “It’s a dying paper ... since 1980 they’ve picked one president ­— Ronald Reagan.”

Candidates don’t usually go about insulting the Union Leader, but Trump’s fans don’t seem to mind it. His comments drew raucous applause at Monday night’s event. 

And while Christie has seemingly taken up residence in New Hampshire, Trump has stopped in the state for just 23 events, a strikingly low number. 

The Trump campaign attributes the large venues to demand and enthusiasm from his supporters.

But Trump is a known germaphobe who dislikes shaking hands, which might be another reason he’s avoided the diner appearances that are a staple of New Hampshire politics.

In any event, none of this has hurt him in the state, at least so far. 

Trump has nearly double the support of Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioUS abstains from UN resolution on Cuba embargo for first time Florida poll: Clinton leads Trump by 3 The media is rigging the election by reporting WikiLeaks emails MORE (R-Fla.) and his other Republican opponents in state polls. 

Most of Trump’s success since he entered the race has been chalked up to his unconventional style. Voters in this cycle seem not to trust traditional politicians and are craving someone different. 

New Hampshire state Sen. Lou D’Allesandro (D), who has served in public office in New Hampshire since 1975, says those are the reasons Trump is doing so well in his state.

“Nobody has done it quite like Trump is [running his campaign] now. Nobody,” D’Allesandro told The Hill. “If you want a basic premise of why he’s so popular, it’s [because] the public doesn’t trust the establishment. They have no faith in the establishment.”

Others, however, aren’t so sure Trump is that differnet. 

Andy Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, argues Trump’s campaign style is more in the tradition of New Hampshire politics than critics think.

“If you look at a candidate who’s spending a tremendous amount of time in New Hampshire and running a tremendous amount of events in New Hampshire, they’re going to lose,” Smith said, referring to campaign strategies of South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, George Pataki and Chris Dodd. “They have no choice. They’re [using that campaign strategy] because that’s the only thing they have money and resources to do.”

Trump’s touch-and-go rallies are gaining media attention similar to the style of rallies President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s campaigns held in 2008.

But Smith did warn the Trump campaign that the best predictor of somebody coming out and voting is whether they did in the past. Trump is engaging a new group of citizens who don’t habitually vote, so whether they do will determine the outcome of the early state contests.

“Voting is a habit more than it is being driven by anything any candidate is doing.”