EXETER, N.H. – Nikki Haley reacted to the roar of the crowd in New Hampshire as she walked to the stage at her first rally since Republican presidential nomination rival Ron DeSantis dropped out of the race.
“Can you hear that sound?” she told her supporters on Sunday night in the historic town in New Hampshire’s Seacoast region. “That’s the sound of a two-person race.”
Haley, the former South Carolina governor who later served as U.N. ambassador in former President Trump’s administration, has been framing the GOP nomination battle as a two-candidate showdown between herself and Trump.
With DeSantis suspending his campaign on Sunday, Haley and Trump are now the two remaining major candidates on the eve of the New Hampshire primary.
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Republican presidential candidate and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley speaks during a campaign event at Exeter High School in Exeter, New Hampshire, Sunday, Jan. 21, 2024, (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
However, most polls indicate that Haley remains double digits behind Trump with hours to go until the polls open in New Hampshire.
Trump, who is running a third straight time for the White House, stands at 57% support in a Suffolk University, the Boston Globe and NBC10 in Boston daily tracking poll released on Monday morning, with Haley at 38%. Both candidates received two-point bumps with the departure of DeSantis, who was a distant third in New Hampshire in the single digits.
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The poll was conducted on Saturday and Sunday nights, both before and after the Florida governor dropped out and endorsed Trump.
Trump held a similar lead in a Monmouth University/Washington Post survey conducted Jan. 16-20. The former president stood at 52% support, with Haley at 34% and DeSantis at 8%.
Trump was also up by double-digits in a University of New Hampshire/CNN poll that was in the field from Jan. 16-19, with the former president at 50%, Haley at 39%, and DeSantis at 6%.
Trump scored a convincing victory in last Monday night’s low-turnout Iowa caucuses, the first contest on the GOP presidential nominating calendar. He grabbed 51% of the vote, 30 points ahead of DeSantis and Haley.
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The former president predicted another major win on Tuesday, telling supporters at a rally in Rochester, New Hampshire, on Sunday night that “I think we’re going to have the same kind of result here as we did last week in Iowa.”
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.
Republican presidential candidate and former President Trump addresses a campaign rally at the Rochester Opera House on Jan. 21, 2024 in Rochester, New Hampshire. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
The latest surveys indicate 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.
Veteran New Hampshire-based Republican consultant Jim Merrill told Fox News that DeSantis’ departure from the race “narrows Haley’s margin for error here. Many, if not most, of DeSantis voters are going to migrate over to Trump. And so it’s critical for her to do well in New Hampshire to give her some momentum heading into South Carolina.”
Mike Dennehy, another longtime New Hampshire-based GOP strategist, was more blunt.
“I think it puts a nail in her coffin,” he said of Haley. “I don’t think she’ll be able to keep under 50%. And I think there’s a very good chance that Trump hits 60% on Tuesday, which will signal the end of the Haley campaign and virtually seal the deal for the Trump nomination.”
Former Gov. Nikki Haley and former President Trump have stepped up their attacks on each other ahead of the New Hampshire primary. (Michael M. Santiago/Al Drago/Bloomberg)
Haley obviously does not see it that way.
In a one-on-one interview with Fox News Digital on Sunday night, Haley said her message to voters who were supporting DeSantis is, “it’s time for a new generation. It’s time to stop the chaos. It’s time to stop the noise and get America back on track.”
Additionally, she pledged that she would “absolutely” be moving on to South Carolina’s primary on Feb. 24 regardless of her finish in New Hampshire.
Haley’s home state holds the next major contest on the GOP presidential nominating calendar.
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In her rally Sunday night, Haley once again touted polls that indicate her defeating President Biden by larger margins than Trump would in hypothetical general election matchups.
A poll released Friday by Marist College indicates Haley performing better against Biden than Trump or DeSantis in hypothetical general election matchups in November in New Hampshire, which is a key battleground state.
The survey indicated Haley edging Biden by three points, while the president tops Trump by seven points.
However, a Real Clear Politics average of all the most recent national polls in a potential Biden-Haley showdown indicates Haley edging the president by 1.1 points.
The same average in a Biden-Trump rematch suggests the former president with a 2-point edge over the incumbent.
Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.