MANCHESTER, N.H. – Nikki Haley, telling supporters at a rally in Salem, New Hampshire, on the eve of the first primary in the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, said that “we’ve got a lot on the line here.”
Former President Trump, a couple of hours later and some 60 miles north of Haley in Laconia, New Hampshire, emphasized to the crowd at his rally that “tomorrow is the day that each and every one of you is going to cast the most important vote of your entire life.”
After a convincing 30-point victory in Iowa’s low-turnout GOP presidential caucuses a week ago, Trump is aiming for an encore performance in the Granite State as he tries to bring the Republican nomination race to an early ending.
For Haley, a former two-term South Carolina governor who served as U.N. ambassador in the Trump administration, the New Hampshire primary may be her best and possibly last chance to slow down or derail the former president’s march towards renomination.
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Haley was down by double digits in most of the final public opinion surveys to the former president, who is the commanding frontrunner for the GOP nomination as he makes his third straight White House run.
Pointing to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ suspension of his campaign on Sunday – which left Trump and Haley as the last major Republican candidates in the GOP race – Trump highlighted that “now we’re down to two people. And I think one person will be gone probably tomorrow…now is the time for the Republican Party to come together.”
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However, New Hampshire – where independent voters who make up roughly 40% of the electorate can vote in either major party’s contest and have long played an influential role in the state’s storied presidential primary – may be fertile ground for Haley.
Former U.N. ambassador and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican presidential candidate, talks with supporters during a campaign event in Salem, New Hampshire, on Monday. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
The final surveys indicated Trump dominating among registered Republicans, with Haley grabbing majority support among independents. However, there are likely more Republicans than independents who will vote in Tuesday’s GOP primary.
Haley, publicly brushing off the polls, made a last minute pitch, telling her supporters to “go to the polls tomorrow and take five people with you.”
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Haley also pledged in a couple of Fox News interviews that she’s moving on to her home state regardless of her finish in New Hampshire. South Carolina’s Feb. 24 primary is the next major contest on the GOP nominating calendar following Tuesday’s showdown in New Hampshire.
“This is a marathon. It’s not a sprint. The political and media elite say everybody needs to coalesce around Donald Trump,” Haley told Fox News’ Martha MacCallum on Monday in Franklin, New Hampshire. “We don’t believe in coronations in this country. We believe in democracy. I’m in this for the long haul.
Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event in Laconia, New Hampshire, on Monday. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Longtime New Hampshire-based Republican strategist Dave Carney said the Granite State is Haley’s “only shot.”
“We have a highly educated, high-income electorate. We’re one of the few primaries that allow independents to vote. And if she can’t make it here, she can’t make it anywhere,” argued Carney, a veteran of numerous GOP presidential campaigns.
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Mike Biundo, another Republican consultant who’s based in New Hampshire, noted that “Nikki Haley is fully committed to this state. It is her best and only opportunity to challenge Donald Trump, given our state’s significant undeclared voting population.”
Carney said “all indications are that Trump is going to dominate the election.”
“But New Hampshire voters have a history of breaking late,” Carney added. “And polling in the New Hampshire primary, because of independents, is particularly difficult.”
Biundo, a veteran of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign who was consulting for Trump ally Vivek Ramaswamy this cycle, predicted that “facing a potential embarrassing defeat in her home state of South Carolina, I anticipate that a double-digit loss in New Hampshire will force Haley to withdraw from the race by Friday.”
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