By Janice Hisle
NASHUA, N.H.–President Donald Trump defeated former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley in the New Hampshire Republican primary election on Jan. 23.
The victory dashed Ms. Haley’s hopes for an upset against the former president in a state where she performed best in polling before voters marked their ballots.
For decades, New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary has served as a reliable proving ground for Republican presidential hopefuls.
Going into the Jan. 23 election, the former president enjoyed a 17-point polling lead over Ms. Haley in the Granite State, according to an average of polls maintained by RealClearPolitics. The accuracy of those polls was thrown off-kilter when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis exited the race on Jan. 21 and endorsed President Trump.
The exit by Mr. DeSantis turned the GOP primary into a two-person race. Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy quit the race shortly after placing fourth in the Iowa caucus on Jan. 15. He endorsed President Trump. So did North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who dropped out of the race earlier.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie stopped his campaign on Jan. 10, just five days before the Iowa caucus, igniting speculation that Ms. Haley would reap many of his firmly anti-Trump supporters.
A University of New Hampshire/CNN poll, released just hours before Mr. DeSantis announced that he was dropping out, showed that 62 percent of the Florida governor’s supporters considered President Trump their second choice; half as many said they would choose Ms. Haley.
The New Hampshire outcome adds fuel to President Trump’s calls for Ms. Haley to drop out and unite the Republican Party in its quest to defeat Democrat President Joe Biden in the Nov. 5 general election.
President Trump scored this victory even though New Hampshire’s best-known political family, the Sununus, gave its blessing to Ms. Haley, also a former South Carolina governor. The Sununu family includes New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu; his father, former Gov. John H. Sununu; and his brother, John E. Sununu, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Amid the candidates’ final pushes in New Hampshire, President Trump trumpeted a key endorsement that appeared to be aimed at undercutting support for Ms. Haley. Mr. Scott, who hails from Ms. Haley’s home state of South Carolina, threw his support behind President Trump on Jan. 19 at a speech in Concord, New Hampshire.
In a state whose motto is “Live Free or Die,” voters are considered a fiercely independent bunch. Many political observers considered that mindset and the state’s “semi-open” primary system to be boons to Ms. Haley.
She has made statements and supported policies that are often described as more “moderate” or more “liberal” than President Trump’s. Therefore, pundits say Ms. Haley’s candidacy would likely attract Democrats who switched parties. Democrats who did so before a deadline, Oct. 6, 2023, were permitted to vote in New Hampshire’s Republican primary.
Independent voters or those without a party affiliation were also believed to heavily favor Ms. Haley in New Hampshire.
However, political commentators such as Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the House, said that even if Ms. Haley won, it was unlikely she could gain sufficient traction in other early-primary states.
New Hampshire voters made their decision just eight days after President Trump’s historic Iowa caucus win.
On Jan. 15, President Trump beat Mr. DeSantis by nearly 30 points, the largest-ever margin of victory for a Republican presidential candidate who faced significant competition. Ms. Haley came in third, about 32 points behind President Trump.
The former president also became the first Republican presidential hopeful to earn more than 50 percent of Iowa caucus-goers’ votes.
The Iowa caucus is a party-run contest, which some critics say helps “ideologues” to skew the outcome, whereas the New Hampshire primary is a state-run election that might more accurately reflect the electorate.
Now that New Hampshire is a done deal, the race heads to Nevada, which will hold the “first in the West” presidential nominating contest.
This year, because of a change in state law, the state is using both a state-run Republican primary and a party-run Republican caucus. But the caucus, set for Feb. 8, is the only outcome that counts.
Ms. Haley opted to participate in the primary, excluding herself from the caucus, Bruce Parks, GOP chair in Nevada’s Washoe County, told The Epoch Times last month.
The Silver State carries only 26 delegates to the GOP convention in July, about 1 percent of the estimated total needed for a candidate to earn the party’s presidential nomination.
But Mr. Parks said candidates who disregard Nevada do so at their own peril, because small margins can often make the difference between victory and defeat.
After Nevada, the “first in the South” Republican primary will be held in Ms. Haley’s home state, South Carolina.
So far, opinion polling in the Palmetto State hasn’t been favorable toward its former governor. President Trump was holding a 30-point lead over Ms. Haley as of Jan. 22 in the RealClearPolitics average of polls.