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 will be on the trail, waving to supporters from parades, shaking hands with voters and taking selfies.
But not the front-runner: Donald J. Trump will be conspicuously absent on the 247th anniversary of the nation’s independence.
Mike Pence is headed to Iowa, while Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida will do double duty with two parades in New Hampshire, the state that is also drawing Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina and North Dakota’s governor, Doug Burgum, a dark-horse candidate, among others.
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.
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, engaging with voters and Americans who are sick of Joe Biden’s failed leadership,” Mr. Cheung said.
For early-state Republican voters hoping for more personal attention on the Fourth, the pickings will be plentiful — just not Mr. Trump. Mr. Pence, the former vice president, will walk the parade route in Urbandale, Iowa, then meet voters 35 miles north in Boone, Iowa, on Tuesday.
Both Mr. DeSantis and Mr. Scott will be at the July 4 parade in Merrimack, N.H., as will several other Republican presidential hopefuls: Mr. Burgum, former Representative Will Hurd of Texas, the entrepreneur and author Vivek Ramaswamy, and Perry Johnson, a Michigan businessman. Marianne Williamson, a long-shot challenger of President Biden for the Democratic nomination, will be there too as well as at an earlier parade in Wolfeboro — where Mr. DeSantis will also be.
Mr. Biden will be using a bit of presidential prerogative to host active-duty military families for barbecue at the White House. He will also have military and veteran families, caregivers and survivors on the White House lawn for Washington’s traditional fireworks — but not before some politicking at an event with the nation’s largest teachers union, the National Education Association.
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.
“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.
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 and limiting public appearances.”
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.
Jonathan Weisman is a Chicago-based political correspondent, veteran journalist and author of the novel “No. 4 Imperial Lane” and the nonfiction book “(((Semitism))): Being Jewish in America in the Age of Trump.” His career in journalism stretches back 30 years. @jonathanweisman
Source: Read Full Article