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Despite all that has been unusual about 2021, one thing has been very normal: Potential presidential candidates have traveled to New Hampshire to introduce themselves to party activists, try a few lines of applause and raise their profile. national.

As Donald Trump’s potential race looms in the background, around a dozen top Republicans have visited New Hampshire this year to plant a flag: they want their name in the conversation as the 2024 potential main field takes over. form.

This group includes former Vice President Mike Pence. Pence will make his second trip to the state on Wednesday this year. It is expected to have a full day of four events, including closed-door fundraising events, a speech to home builders and contractors, and an event sponsored by a national conservative think tank.

His trip to New Hampshire follows other trips this year to the first presidential primary states. He’s been to Iowa twice and has also made stops in South Carolina and Nevada.

Pence’s visit follows Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton on Friday, who also made a day-long visit that included small events topped off with a keynote address to Keene County Republicans.

Other people who have visited the state this year include Florida Senator Rick Scott, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, Texas Representative Dan Crenshaw, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former Ambassador United Nations Nikki Haley and Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney. Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie attended virtual events with a New Hampshire Republican audience.

Of course, one Republican who hasn’t been in the state this year is former President Donald Trump. While Trump hired a few consultants in Iowa and toured the state earlier this year, he hasn’t been to New Hampshire since a pre-election rally in 2020.

Poll after poll, Trump topped the candidate lists in a hypothetical Republican primary in New Hampshire. The most recent poll, conducted by the University of New Hampshire in October, notably had Trump with less than 50% support among likely Republican primary voters.

Trump had 43% support, well ahead of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at 18%. and all other single-digit polled.

Early and leisurely visits to New Hampshire are not a new concept. Former Arizona Senator John McCain campaigned for the first time in the state in 2008 two weeks after the 2004 presidential election. Donald Trump’s first year in office has been a particularly busy time in New Brunswick. Hampshire with visits from Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and many more. Even former Ohio Governor John Kasich visited the state that year to pitch the tires in another race – and to sell a new book.

But there are two things that are different this time. No modern politician has seen a former president weigh in on a potential primary field like Trump has done on this one, and certainly no one has seen a failed reelection candidate continue to lead the party as he does. did.

Second, Republicans aren’t using their time out of power to find a new message or fight internally for the soul of the party. The soul part is understood: it’s Trump.

So instead, what these potential candidates, like Pence, will likely do is talk about what they are against, namely Biden, inflation, the “revival”, the critical theory of the race and vaccine mandates. So far in this environment, it is earlier for them to say what they are against than to take affirmative positions about how uniquely they would lead, or where they want to party.

James Pindell can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on twitter @jamespindell.