US President Donald Trump has tried to rattle Democrats with a rally in New Hampshire on the eve of the state’s first-in-the-nation primaries.
Mr Trump, on a high after his acquittal last week on impeachment charges, boasted about the nation’s strong economy, tore into his possible general election foes and launched an assault on the Democrats who tried to remove him from office.
He called the impeachment a “pathetic partisan crusade”.
“Our good Republicans in the United States Senate voted to reject the outrageous partisan impeachment hoax and to issue a full, complete and absolute total acquittal,” Mr Trump told a crowd that roared and cheered throughout his speech.
“And it wasn’t even close.”
Mr Trump’s rally came a day before New Hampshire Democrats head to the polls following the disastrous Iowa caucuses that failed to produce a clear-cut winner to take him on in November.
The president mocked the lingering uncertainty over the outcome of the party’s Iowa caucuses, where the results are still under dispute.
“Does anyone know who won Iowa?” he asked the crowd. “I don’t know.”
Before leaving Washington, Mr Trump said he had planned the rally to rattle Democrats and demonstrate his strength in the state before the primary vote.
“Want to shake up the Dems a little bit – they have a really boring deal going on,” Mr Trump tweeted. “Still waiting for the Iowa results, votes were fried. Big crowds in Manchester!”
Mr Trump regularly schedules counter-programming to divert attention from Democratic debates and other major moments, keeping him in the spotlight and building supporters’ enthusiasm.
At the same time, Mr Trump continued to celebrate the Senate’s acquittal decision, attacking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her performance during his State of the Union address last week.
“I had somebody behind me who was mumbling terribly, mumbling, mumbling,” Mr Trump complained, calling it “very distracting, very distracting”.
He did not make mention of how, at the address’s conclusion, Ms Pelosi tore up her copy of the speech.
Mr Trump’s remarks prompted the crowd to break into the same “Lock her up!” chant that his supporters directed at Hillary Clinton four years ago.
The marquee event was held in front of a crowd of thousands at a downtown Manchester arena, and Mr Trump made sure viewers at home knew it.
“We have more in this arena and outside of this arena than all of the other candidates, meaning the Democrats, put together and multiplied times five,” he boasted.
As Air Force One touched down in New Hampshire, a stream of Republicans, including Vice President Mike Pence and Donald Trump Jr, preceded the president to the stage.
The impeachment that put Mr Trump’s presidency in danger was frequently referred to.
“Justice was served, our constitution was defended and President Trump was acquitted forever!” Mr Pence told the roaring crowd.
New Hampshire has always loomed large in Mr Trump’s political lore as the first nominating contest he won during 2016’s heated Republican primaries.
He was about to take the stage at a rally in Manchester that October when news broke that the FBI was re-opening its investigation into Democrat Hillary Clinton’s emails, breathing new life into his then-struggling campaign.
New Hampshire was also the site of the penultimate rally of the 2016 contest – an extravagant send-off just hours before a post-midnight rally in Michigan.
Though Mr Trump narrowly lost New Hampshire in the general election four years ago, his team believes it is one of the few states, along with Minnesota and perhaps New Mexico, that could flip to red in November.
“We are going to win New Hampshire in a landslide,” Mr Trump predicted, insisting that registered Democrat voters are leaving their party “to join our movement”.
Democrats in the state had a different view.
“We’ll make sure that Granite Staters know that he has broken his promises to this state and he will lose here again in November,” New Hampshire Democratic Party chairman Ray Buckley told reporters.