Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley delivers remarks at her primary night rally at the Grappone Conference Center on January 23, 2024, in Concord. (Brandon Bell | Getty Images)
Nikki Haley pitched her third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses last week as a win. She attempted to do the same Tuesday night after losing the New Hampshire primary to former President Donald Trump.
“What a great night,” she told a cheering crowd at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord after the Associated Press called the race for Trump. “God is so good. Thank you New Hampshire for the love, the kindness and support and a great night here tonight.”
With 50 percent of votes counted, Trump was leading Haley 54 percent to 44.5 percent. It’s a better finish than Haley saw in Iowa, where Trump finished with 51 percent of the vote to her 19 percent.
President Joe Biden, who did not campaign in New Hampshire, won the Democratic primary thanks to a write-in effort, defeating Minnesota Congressman Dean Phillips and author Marianne Williamson. Votes in that race were still being counted at press time.
Haley congratulated Trump on his win Tuesday night and said she was looking ahead to the next primary, in her home state of South Carolina, where she has been trailing Trump by double digits.
“You’ve all heard the chatter among the political class,” Haley told the crowd. “They’re falling all over themselves saying this race is over. I have news for all of them: New Hampshire is first in the nation, it is not the last in the nation.”
Her path to the Republican nomination was viewed as narrow ahead of Tuesday’s results. It may be narrower now, political experts said.
Dante Scala, political science professor at the University of New Hampshire, called Haley’s showing respectable but said she’s likely to face resistance ahead from more than just Trump voters.
“I think there will be a significant amount of peer pressure from other Republican elected officials and party leaders and pressure from her donors to pull the plug,” he said Tuesday night. “They don’t want to see a knockdown, drag-out fight. I don’t think party leaders have the stomach for that. They would much rather, even if Donald Trump is the nominee and they have doubts in their heart about that, ultimately, I think the urge to unify will overwhelm that.”
Haley seemed to anticipate some of that pressure in her remarks Tuesday, promising supporters she was “scrappy” enough to resist. Mitchell Scacchi, a policy analyst at the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, said she has a strong incentive to stay in the race now that Ron DeSantis has suspended his campaign.
“Everybody else has dropped out,” he said. “With Donald Trump facing these indictments and criminal prosecutions and just being old in general, if he were to be pushed out of the way, one way or another, she will be the only one with some delegates. If she has the money, she has an incentive to stay in the race as long as she can.”
Haley and her team had been managing expectations ahead of Tuesday’s results.
She told reporters that she had no plans to drop out of the race if she lost to Trump. Her campaign manager, Betsy Ankney, issued a campaign memo Tuesday morning that looked ahead to March 5, when 16 states will hold primaries.
Eleven of those states have open or semi-open primaries, meaning independents, not just Republicans, can vote, a group Haley has tried to win over.
“After Super Tuesday, we will have a very good picture of where this race stands,” Ankney wrote. “Until then, everyone should take a deep breath. The campaign has not even begun in any of these states yet.”
Before Super Tuesday, Haley will compete in her home state of South Carolina, where she is not expected to do well.
Haley was counting on the state’s socially moderate, fiscally conservative Republicans and 344,200 undeclared voters to, if not best Trump, come close. She’s lagged in polls throughout the primary, which showed her 18 percentage points behind Trump Tuesday.
Polls have also shown Republican and independent support breaking differently for Trump and Haley, and that her showing Tuesday would depend on who came out to vote.
A CNN poll released Sunday showed Haley far less popular than Trump among respondents who identified as conservative (17 percent to 71 percent) and nearly as poorly among libertarians (12 percent to 61 percent). Haley did much better with college-educated respondents (50 percent to 38 percent) and worse among those who hadn’t attended college (35 percent to 55 percent).
Haley attempted to reach both sides of the divide with help from an unlikely pair: General Don Bolduc, a Republican who ran for the U.S. Senate in 2022 with Trump’s endorsement, and Gov. Chris Sununu, a Trump critic who’s won four terms by winning over moderates.
She pitched herself to audiences as a conservative with less baggage and distractions.
“I voted for Donald Trump twice, I was proud to serve America in his administration,” said Haley, Trump’s U.N. ambassador for two years, at a Manchester rally Friday. “I agree with a lot of his policies. But rightly or wrongly, chaos follows him. We can’t have a country in disarray and a world on fire, and go through four more years of chaos. We won’t survive it.”
In recent days, she had begun stepping up her attacks on Trump, questioning his mental clarity.
Sununu endorsed Haley in December and has crisscrossed the state with her the last several days. He introduced her at rallies, poured beers with her from behind bars, drove her from stop to stop in a red Ford Mustang. Sununu emailed voters on her behalf and sent them mail, describing himself as “all in.”
Haley thanked him Tuesday night from the stage, but he was noticeably absent.
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