CONCORD, N.H. — It’s a New Hampshire tradition seeped in history, and Wednesday Donald Trump and Martin O’Malley became the first two major presidential candidates to file for the all-important state primary.
Hounded by hundreds of fans and a swirling mass of cameras, it was a boisterous scene as Trump used the opportunity to launch an onslaught of charges at his Republican rivals for the nomination, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, and Jeb Bush.
“Marco Rubio has a disaster on his finances. He has a disaster on his credit cards. When you check his credit cards, take a look at what he’s done with the Republican Party when he had access,” Trump told a crowd of reporters gathered at the New Hampshire State House. “You really have to look at his record. His record is terrible. His record is absolutely terrible.”
Trump’s comments came just as Rubio was down the road in Manchester, preparing to appear at the Saint Anselm College Institute of Politics. The Florida senator dismissed Trump's charge as an attack that was "debunked" during his previous campaigns.
As the former real estate mogul entered the State House, a local group of 4th grade students happened to be taking a tour of the building. Trump posed for pictures with all of them, and the group erupted when he asked which one was the best student.
When Trump made his way in to Secretary of State Bill Gardner’s office, he was greeted by another swarm of media as Gardner explained the rules and allowed Trump to sign his papers. It could be a “very important signature,” Trump told the crowd squeezed into the small room.
Once his moment with Gardner was over, Trump moved into a new room in the office, and took questions from reporters while continuing to attack his rivals. "In all fairness, Jeb Bush is like a dynamo compared to Ben [Carson],” Trump declared.
Earlier Wednesday, Martin O’Malley was the first major candidate to file for the primary, arriving with his campaign soon after the filing period began but before the crush of people were on the scene for Trump.
O’Malley spoke to reporters about the clear differences he sees in his gun policy verses Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and he pointed out to NBC News that he differs with President Obama on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and issues pertaining to Wall Street regulation.
When O’Malley was asked about Trump, who would sit in the same chair only two hours later, he said, "I find extremely distasteful and repugnant Donald Trump's racist rants against new American immigrants,” adding that Trump’s comments at his announcement speech in June were “crude and demeaning of everything our country is about."
The filing period for the New Hampshire primary runs from November 4th to November 20th.
Potential candidates must be qualified to run under the U.S. Constitution, must be a registered Republican or Democrat, and they must file a declaration of candidacy with a filing fee of $1,000. Compared to other states, getting on the ballot in New Hampshire is not as difficult, since signatures are not required and the cost is not as high as other places, like South Carolina’s fee of $40,000. Candidates are not required to appear in person, unless they decide to file on the last day.
Gardner has not officially set the date yet for the primary, though most expect it to be held on Feb. 9, 2016.