Donald Trump’s Southern-tinged New Hampshire rally

MANCHESTER, N.H. – Even before he rattled off the names of prominent New Hampshire supporters at Saturday’s rally, Donald Trump praised a contingent of South Carolina allies who had trekked to the event to reinforce their endorsement.

The subtext was clear. While Trump is angling for a clear victory over former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley in Tuesday’s first-in-the-nation primary, he also wants to deliver a knockout blow over his former deputy in three weeks when the race arrives in her home state.

Throughout his roughly two-hourlong speech, Trump ripped Haley as a phony Republican who lost support from hardcore conservatives in her state. Among those who joined Trump on stage was South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, who has a long-running rivalry with Haley.

“New Hampshire is for Trump. South Carolina is too,” McMaster told the crowd. “We will see you at the finish line.”

(Haley shrugged off McMaster’s appearance. “I’m sorry – is that the person I ran against for governor and beat?” she said, of her 2010 victory over McMaster. “Just checking.”)

The rally came a day after U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina spurned Haley and endorsed Trump, saying at a Concord rally that the former president will “unite our country.”

On Saturday in frigid Manchester, Trump basked in the Palmetto State support, saying “almost every single leader” in South Carolina was on his side. Someone in the crowd behind him shouted: “God Bless South Carolina” to cheers.

The former president also invoked his legal troubles in Fulton County, where he and 14 remaining co-defendants are charged with illegally meddling with President Joe Biden’s victory.

Trump deliberately mispronounced the name of District Attorney Fani Willis, who brought the case, and accused her of “election interference.” And he honored Rudy Giuliani, a codefendant who attended the rally, as a man of “great courage.”

The former president, meanwhile, was characteristically blunt about why he was showering his South Carolina allies with praise.

“We’re going to be there in three weeks,” he said. “So you know what I’m doing? I’m kissing ass.”