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Trump makes rare campaign stops in New England in closing stretch

Trump makes rare campaign stops in New England in closing stretch
© MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

BANGOR, Maine — President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden to nominate Linda Thomas-Greenfield for UN ambassador: reports Scranton dedicates 'Joe Biden Way' to honor president-elect Kasich: Republicans 'either in complete lockstep' or 'afraid' of Trump MORE on Sunday made a rare foray into New England, seeking to boost support in traditionally liberal parts of the country even as his campaign is playing defense in more populous states that are critical to his path to reelection.

Trump held a rally with thousands of supporters in New Hampshire and engaged in the type of smaller-scale retail politicking he has usually eschewed during a brief stop in Maine. 

The president stopped at Treworgy Family Orchards in Levant, Maine, where he signed campaign hats and a pumpkin, took home a bag of apples, and met face-to-face with supporters, separated only by a barrier of gourds.

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A baby goat bleated in the background as Trump picked up a megaphone to address the hundreds of supporters who had packed in tightly on the orchard grounds, most of them not wearing masks.

“I’m very impressed, and I’m very impressed with Maine,” Trump said. “And I hope we’re going to do very well in Maine.”

“It’s the biggest election our country has ever had,” Trump added. “We will never be a socialist country.” 

In New Hampshire, the president’s rally remarks were mostly in line with those he has made at numerous other stops. He sprinkled in some specific Granite State appeals, noting his own primary victory there in 2016 and calling attention to Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden to nominate Linda Thomas-Greenfield for UN ambassador: reports Scranton dedicates 'Joe Biden Way' to honor president-elect Kasich: Republicans 'either in complete lockstep' or 'afraid' of Trump MORE’s struggles there earlier this year. 

“Sleepy Joe doesn’t care about New Hampshire,” he said, noting Biden left the state on primary night in February before the results were final in order to shift his focus to the South Carolina primary.

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Trump is in the midst of a furious schedule of campaign events with Election Day just nine days out and tens of millions of ballots already cast. He returned early Sunday morning from a two-day swing in which he held five rallies total across four states.

Both stops showcased the enthusiasm among the president’s supporters, with frequent chants of “four more years” and “we love you” and one of “Super-Trump” in Londonderry, N.H., after he recounted feeling like Superman in the wake of his bout with the coronavirus. 

But polls indicate Trump may have a difficult time making inroads in this part of the country in time for Election Day, and Sunday’s trip raised eyebrows given the minimal electoral impact of New Hampshire and Maine compared with the handful of states where Trump is on defense. 

The Granite State awards four electoral votes. Maine also awards four total but is not a winner-take-all system, with two going to the winner of the state and one each going to the winner of its two congressional districts. 

Trump came within 3,000 votes of winning New Hampshire in 2016, and the campaign has long viewed it as a prime target to flip in 2020. The president won Maine’s 2nd Congressional District in 2016, though he lost the first district and the state overall. 

There are Senate races in both New Hampshire and Maine on the ballot this year, but Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenTop Democrat calls Trump's Afghan drawdown 'the right policy decision' as others warn of 'mistake' Overnight Defense: How members of the Armed Services committees fared in Tuesday's elections | Military ballots among those uncounted in too-close-to-call presidential race | Ninth US service member killed by COVID-19 Biden wins New Hampshire MORE (D-N.H.) is seen as a prohibitive favorite to win reelection, and Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTeam Trump offering 'fire hose' of conspiracy Kool-Aid for supporters Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Hogan 'embarrassed that more people' in the GOP 'aren't speaking up' against Trump MORE (R-Maine) has made a point to distance herself from Trump in one of the most closely watched campaigns in the country.

Trump made only a passing mention of Shaheen’s challenger, Corky Messner, and didn’t appear especially familiar with the race. He avoided bringing up Collins entirely during his stop in Maine, though a few supporters gathered there signaled they would vote for the incumbent for the sake of ensuring Republican representation in the Senate.

The president’s greatest obstacle among voters remains his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 220,000 Americans. Trump repeated in New Hampshire that the country is “rounding the turn” even as the United States has set records in recent days for reported infections and Vice President Pence is grappling with an outbreak within his own ranks.

Trump loves to boast of the sheer size of his crowds, which far outpace what Biden typically draws. But few of those supporters wear masks, and some jurisdictions where Trump has held recent events have seen spikes in coronavirus cases in the following days.

Polls show Trump facing an uphill battle in both New Hampshire and Maine heading into the final week of the campaign. A University of New Hampshire poll conducted two weeks ago showed Biden up 12 points, while polling in Maine indicates Trump is competitive in the 2nd Congressional District but not the state overall. 

With just nine days left until Election Day, some strategists and Republicans wondered whether Trump’s time was better spent trying to shore up support in states such as Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida.  

“I think this may reflect the fact that they have nowhere else to send him,” said Tom Rath, a former attorney general for New Hampshire who has worked on past GOP presidential campaigns. 

The president will resume campaigning in more traditional swing states on Monday, when he will hold three separate rallies in Pennsylvania. The rest of the week will include stops in Wisconsin, Michigan and Nebraska, all states he won in 2016.