New Hampshire primary: Takeaways from Trump’s victory over Haley

The renowned power of New Hampshire’s fiercely independent voters was not enough to break the spell that Donald J. Trump had cast on the Republican Party.

By eschewing Nikki Haley a little more than a week after pairing her with Ron DeSantis in Iowa, Mr. Trump became the first non-White House Republican presidential candidate to carry the nation’s first two contests. His 11-percentage-point margin of victory in moderate New Hampshire showed his firm grip on the party’s hard-right base and set him up for what could very well be a short march to the nomination.

For Ms. Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, it was a disappointing finish in a state in which she had invested heavily. Her efforts to cobble together a coalition of independents and anti-Trump Republicans, backed by the state’s popular governor, have been no match for Mr. Trump’s legions of loyalists.

Although Ms. Haley vows to fight on, the tough terrain ahead in South Carolina means this first-in-the-nation primary could be the last.

In 2016, Trump’s victory in New Hampshire put him on the path to the nomination and ultimately the presidency.

Eight years later, the state again delivered for him.

According to exit polls, he performed well in almost every demographic group. He won in all age groups, among men and women.

In the last days, Mr. Trump has sought to project an air of inevitability, hoping to avoid a lengthy and expensive fight as he resists efforts to convict him in a criminal trial before Election Day in November.

His success in New Hampshire is likely to put more pressure on Ms. Haley to ditch her Republican allies, who include senators, members of the House of Representatives and governors.

He won more than 50 percent of the vote, though his margin of victory narrowed significantly from the 2016 primary, when he won New Hampshire by about 20 points in a crowded field. And he fell short of his 30-point triumph at this month’s Iowa caucuses.

He seemed visibly aware of that fact when he took the stage Tuesday night and hinted at an uglier next phase.

Using profanity as he repeatedly attacked Ms Haley, he said: “I’m not getting too angry – I’m getting even.”

The contest now moves to South Carolina for the next competitive primary and one where Ms. Haley faces an uphill battle. Mr. Trump has led polls in her conservative home state by more than 30 points for months.

There is no doubt that a defeat for Ms. Haley there would be devastating, making it difficult for her to justify continuing in the race.

For Mr. Trump, closing the contest in South Carolina would allow his campaign to avoid the high cost of Super Tuesday on March 5, when 16 states hold their primary contests. He is expected to launch a barrage of sharp attacks, a tactic similar to the brutal campaign of humiliation he waged against Mr. DeSantis, who left the contest on Sunday.

Trump has already argued that Ms. Haley is hurting the party’s chances in the fall by forcing him into an extended nomination contest.

“If she doesn’t drop out, we have to spend money instead of spending it on Biden, which is our focus,” he told Fox News shortly after the race was announced.

Tuesday night’s results showed that the time is coming to sit and sew for the Republican Party of Bush, Cheney and Romney. And the donor class that once played a major role in shaping the party is now a desperate group of onlookers.

Ms. Haley ran on a traditional Republican platform, which has faded during the Trump years. She campaigned on issues such as cutting federal spending, enacting a decidedly interventionist foreign policy, and overhauling programs like Social Security and Medicare.

Her candidacy was accepted by the pre-Trump GOP as the gang regrouped for one last shot at the intruder.

Traditional Wall Street party donors, who hate Mr. Trump, poured money into Ms. Haley’s super PAC. And New Hampshire seemed to have a more hospitable political environment than Iowa, with a voter base that is less religious and more educated.

But on Tuesday, New Hampshire Republicans rejected Ms. Haley and her attempt to revive the old guard.

She insists her campaign is alive and well, marching in South Carolina, but the wing of the party she represents will come out of New Hampshire for life support.

President Biden has not put his name on the ballot in New Hampshire, after the state refused to comply with the new Democratic nominating calendar that made South Carolina the first choice in the primary. However, a weak write-in campaign by the president’s allies still gave him victory.

His most significant opponent – Representative Dean Phillips of Minnesota – was on track to win just over 20 percent of the vote. Self-help author Marianne Williamson, who made a second bid for the Democratic nomination, was far behind with just 5 percent.

Democrats have spent months jockeying for another option, raising concerns about Mr. Biden’s age in polls, focus groups and even “Saturday Night Live” skits.. But these results underscore the reality of the Democratic nominating process: Mr. Biden faces no real opposition.

For years, many Democrats have questioned whether Mr. Trump will complete his comeback and become the 2024 candidate. Now in charge, Mr. Biden and his party are turning their attention to the general election and preparing to transform the race into a debate over whether the former president, who has been polarized and accused of crimes, is fit to return to office.

Despite his strong results, the results offered warning signs for Mr Trump ahead of November.

A significant portion of Ms. Haley’s support came from unaffiliated voters who wanted to send a message about stopping Mr. Trump — a reminder that he owns Republicans, but he doesn’t own everyone else.

Although Mr. Trump won the race, he failed to garner the kind of numbers one would expect from someone essentially running as an incumbent. He is acting as one as part of his strategy to fight the 91 criminal charges he faces both in the courts and in the courts of public opinion.

But only about half of those who voted in the New Hampshire primary said they would consider him fit to be president if convicted of a crime, according to CNN exit polls. Those who might not vote for him with a criminal conviction, assuming a trial takes place this year, remain a minority. But in the close fall campaign, such factors could be important.

On the other hand, the issues that exit polls suggest are driving many voters, including immigration, are ones that Trump’s team expects will benefit him in the general election. Even with divisions within the Republican Party, the vast majority of its voters believe that someone who wears their partisan jersey is better than Mr. Biden.

Ruth Igielnik contributed to the reporting.

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