At a Trump rally, one wonders what the candidate is thinking. Really, the man can be incomprehensible.
EXETER, N.H. — Norm Phillips, 95, is the kind of person who belongs in a campaign video.
He is both an Air Force and Air Corps veteran, flew different planes in different wars. He was shot down in Laos and rescued. He has climbed mountains and taught sculpture. The late writer James Salter dedicated a book to him. He himself published a book about flying.
Nearing his centenary, he looks about 73. He and a group of other older gentlemen, mostly conservative, mostly veterans, like to gather in a coffee shop here to analyze the state of the nation and the succession of presidential candidates who come to town. Yesterday, in a town hall across the street from the shop, it was Donald Trump.
If Trump becomes president, Phillips says, he'd head for Canada.
Beaten, but not broken
After losing the Iowa caucus to Sen. Ted Cruz, Trump was a little more reticent than usual.
Needless to say this didn't last long.
He has spent the week railing at Cruz and stumping for support in New Hampshire, where he still holds a comfortable lead in the polls.
In a field of career politicians, Trump's independence and willingness to say what he feels can seem refreshing to voters. His fabulous wealth can be read as a marker of success and a promise of independence. His "straight talk" cuts through the niceties of usual political discourse.
There is a visceral appeal in this kind of showmanship. Voters to whom this appeal truly resonates are unlikely to be dissuaded by any other arguments.
For now, Trump is at the mercy of New Hampshire voters, who are supposedly different from others: famously independent, famously last-minute in their choices.
But the concrete difference is that they see candidates face to face to a degree far exceeding any American outside of Iowa. They have their chances to see the candidates beyond sound bites, to hear full speeches, to assess the tenor of physical presence.