New Hampshire’s 2024 primary will be a crucial early test of Trump’s comeback bid

At 8 PM, watch John King’s full report on CNN’s ‘Anderson Cooper 360.’

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Initially, fellow Andrew Konchek used a dockside crane to lower the last huge chest of ice to bring down Alana Rainey’s heavy net. A few moments later, the boat used for fishing detaches from the dock and sails out of Portsmouth Harbor in the moonlight.

This is a two-day journey, and a storm is coming. Konchek often spends 80 hours a week on the water, sometimes even more. It’s tough work, and it shapes his politics.

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The 38-year-old commercial fisherman said last week, ‘I’m a Republican.’ ‘You know, they’re for the working man… I believe the economy is better run by Republicans when it comes to gas prices and everything else.’

In 2016, Donald Trump caught Konchek’s attention, and they were among the people who helped a first-time candidate to a game-changing win in the New Hampshire primary. Now, Trump tops Konchek’s list again as he keeps an eye on another crowded Republican field.

‘Right now, it’s Donald Trump, but I’ll keep it open so I can make an educated decision,’ Konchek said. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is his second choice.

Konchek said, ‘You know, [Trump] does a lot of negative things and there are a lot of things that I don’t agree with.’ ‘But as a businessman, he can run the country like a business.’

Konchek is one of a group of New Hampshire residents contacted by CNN as part of the 2024 Reporting Project, which aims to keep an eye on the presidential campaign through the eyes – and experiences – of voters who live in key battlegrounds or are members of critical voting blocs.

New Hampshire’s 2024 primary will be a crucial initial test of Trump’s return bid. The state’s general election battleground could be, too. New Hampshire Democrats and national Democrats are still at odds over setting the calendar for the presidential primary, and if the state Democratic National Committee ignores the rules, it could cost some convention delegates. Still, a Democratic primary, whenever it’s held, will be a test for President Joe Biden, and some Democrats say they’ll prioritize a young candidate.

The fishermen who spoke to CNN have a common complaint – that they’ve been left behind by state and federal pandemic aid and hit with double-digit inflation that raises the cost of fuel, bait, and other items they have to buy. Like any business, they pass the cost on.