GOP’s New Hampshire struggle: Voters feeling 'Trumpgret’

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — When Chad Johansen voted for Donald Trump in 2016, he hoped he was picking someone who could help small-business owners compete with bigger companies. But that hasn’t happened, and now the 26-year-old owner of NH iPhone Repair feels what he calls “Trumpgret.”

The Republican president has done little to address health care issues for a small employer, he said, and the Manchester man remains on edge about how Trump’s tariffs could affect his business, which employs fewer than 10 people. Beyond that, he said, unrelenting news about bigotry and racism in the Trump administration is “a turnoff.”

“The president’s supposed to be the face of the United States of America,” said Johansen, who voted for Democrat Barack Obama in 2012. “And supposed to make everyone be proud to be an American and stand up for everyone who is an American. And I don’t feel that President Trump’s doing that. I feel like it’s chaos.”

That sentiment is concerning for Trump as he travels to New Hampshire on Thursday for a reelection rally. The state, which he lost by about 2,700 votes in 2016, is doing well economically, at least when using broad measures. But beneath the top-line data are clear signs that the prosperity is being unevenly shared, and when the tumult of the Trump presidency is added to the mix, the state’s flinty voters may not be receptive to his appeals.

Trouble in the bond market on Wednesday raised fresh concerns about a recession on the horizon.

An August University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll found that 42% of New Hampshire adults approve of Trump while 53 percent disapprove. The poll also showed that 49% approve of Trump’s handling of the economy and 44 percent disapprove.

How New Hampshire receives the president on Thursday will offer a fresh test of whether people will give credit to Trump for the state’s economy, base their decision on social issues or make their vote a referendum on the president’s character.

“I’m not sure any great tax policy that Trump has envisioned or created has helped it,” said Tom Rath, a longtime Republican National Convention delegate and former New Hampshire attorney general who backed Republican John Kasich for president in 2016. “I think the climate is good. We’re flourishing in large part because Massachusetts is flourishing.”

At 2.4 percent, New Hampshire’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for May was among the lowest in the nation. But wage growth is significantly below national gains. Average hourly earnings rose a scant 1.1 percent in New Hampshire in 2018, lagging the 3 percent gain nationwide, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In other ways, like the home ownership rate — first in the nation — and median household income — seventh in the U.S. — census data shows the state is thriving.