Inside Donald Trump’s Victory Party in New Hampshire

MANCHESTER, New Hampshire — After a rally on Monday night that drew 5,000 to a sports arena here in a snowstorm, Donald Trump’s victory celebration on Tuesday night was a comparatively intimate affair.

The ballroom at the Executive Court Banquet Facility here — sandwiched between a steakhouse and a Best Western Plus hotel — was packed with a few hundred campaign volunteers and ardent supporters.

Reporters from around the world were crammed in the back so tight that overflow tables were hastily set up in the lobby.

The gathering at times had the feel of being among a group of boosters for a beloved college football team on a winning streak. There was lots of chanting— “Trump! Trump! Trump!” and “USA! USA! USA!” — and waving of oversized foam fingers in addition to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign placards.

There was a sense of bewilderment in the eyes of some Trump campaign staffers, the foot soldiers who helped a man who had never run for political office before top a field of experienced Republican governors (including one named Bush) and senators to win the first-in-the-nation primary. Trump campaign officials compared notes on the demographic breakdown of the voting results in New Hampshire with TV news producers, a sign of the how Trump’s campaign infrastructure is still in its formative stage.

CNN was the network of choice for election results at the gathering for most of the night, although the channel switched to Fox News after 8 p.m. ET when the polls officially closed. Scattered boos could be heard when Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly appeared on screen, in a nod to Trump’s unrestrained criticism of Kelly.

The boos were much louder during the telecast of Hillary Clinton’s concession speech, after the Democratic front-runner came in second to her ultra-liberal rival, Bernie Sanders. “Bo-ring” a group of men chanted, for the benefit of the TV cameras trained on the Trump event, when Clinton railed against the influence of money in politics, a subject that Trump has also taken on in his self-financed campaign.

There were boos for Clinton’s passing references to President Obama and the Affordable Care Act. There were boos when the camera panned to Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton.

The Trump crowd mostly ignored the speech that followed by Sanders, except when it went on too long, delaying Trump’s turn at the microphone. “Shut Up Bernie,” they chanted briefly at line point.

Finally, Trump’s turn came. His remarks were subdued by his standard. He didn’t break new ground with zingers or OMG moments. He started his remarks by extending heartfelt thank-yous to his family, notably his parents, Fred and Mary, and he saluted his siblings including his late brother, Fred. He congratulated, in his own unique way, his opponents for running a strong race. “Now that I got that over with,” he said of the obligatory graciousness.

Trump’s 15-minute speech didn’t veer much from his standard campaign-trail promises. He vowed to build a wall along the nation’s border with Mexico to keep illegal immigrants and drugs from flowing into the country. He vowed to repeal and replace Obamacare with a better system. He promised that on his watch, America would “beat” China, Japan and Mexico at trade deals that allow those countries “to take so much of our money away from us on a daily basis.” He closed by predicting he will win the Feb. 20 Republican primary in South Carolina.

The message that Trump is not beholden to any special interests because he has self-financed his campaign to date has surely resonated with his supporters.

John Caputo, of Ossipee, N.H., has been a fan of Trump’s since he watched him build the Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City in the 1980s.

“We all know he’s great in business,” Caputo said. “He can’t be bought by anyone because he’s already got more money than anyone who is trying to buy him.”

Caputo was red-faced and sweating as he spoke because he’d been energetically waving a bright red “Trump 2016” scarf in front of the bank of TV cameras. He’s been active in politics for years (he volunteered that he voted for Bill Clinton in 1992) but never with the same enthusiasm that he feels for Trump. In Caputo’s view, Trump’s track record in business means that the billionaire can back up audacious boasts such as the promise he made to the victory party crowd: “I will be the greatest jobs President that God ever created.”

Alan Fairfield, 17, of Amherst N.H., said he’s glad to see his candidate “really taking off” in New Hampshire. “People didn’t take him seriously before” but they will now, he said. Fairfield was proud and gratified after starting his day at 5 a.m. ET volunteering for Trump’s get-out-the-vote effort.

Other young voters were enjoying the moment for the candidate they’ve embraced. Outside the Executive Court just as the party broke up, a twenty-something woman in an oversized fisherman sweater and jeans ran down the sidewalk toward her gaggle of friends, with a can of Bud Lite in hand. She looked for all world like she was feeling pretty great about America.

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