Confirming expectations and frustrating hopes, Donald Trump is the winner of the New Hampshire primary, held this Tuesday (23), according to projections by the Associated Press and the New York Times.
It now remains to be seen the margin of victory – if Trump repeats the Iowa sweep, the feat will be seen as the end of Haley’s candidacy and the confirmation of the businessman’s nomination. On the other hand, if the distance is small, the candidacy will have some survival.
With a more moderate electorate and the possibility of independents participating in the vote, the state on the East Coast of the United States was the main hope for the campaign of Nikki Haley, the former president’s last remaining opponent in the Republican race.
The former US ambassador to the UN took over from Ron DeSantis at the end of last year as the main bet of the Trump-resistant wing of the party, garnering important support from critics of the former president and campaign donors, such as the Koch brothers.
His defeat this Tuesday (23) reinforces the failure of this effort in the face of the tireless engagement of the Trumpist base. In recent days, even other pre-candidates who tried to sell themselves as options for the former president, such as Senator Tim Scott and DeSantis himself, declared their support for him.
The bet on Haley gained some momentum with her growth in voter intention polls in New Hampshire, especially after the withdrawal of Chris Christie, Trump’s most vocal critic in the race, at the beginning of the month. The former governor of New Jersey had been campaigning practically only in that state.
Haley’s rise, however, made her a prime target for the Trump campaign. The businessman began jokingly referring to her, the daughter of immigrants from India, as Nikki “Nimrada” Haley (her correct Indian name is Nimarata).
Immigration was precisely one of the themes chosen to attack it. Last week, the former president’s campaign stated, for example, that Haley wants “unlimited immigration” and highlighted a phrase from an interview she gave in 2022 in which she stated that “legal immigrants nowadays are more patriotic than than most Americans.”
Another front was the issue of Social Security. An advocate of reforms such as raising the retirement age, Haley was accused of wanting to end social benefits, including Medicare, for health care.
The Republican, in turn, responded by questioning Trump’s physical and mental fitness, considering his 77 years of age — the same strategy used by the Republican Party against Democrat Joe Biden, 81.
“I’m not saying anything derogatory, but when you’re dealing with the pressures of the Presidency, we can’t have someone who we question if they’re mentally fit to hold that position,” he said at a rally on Saturday (20). Days earlier, she had already said that “the majority of Americans think that having two 80-year-old people running for President is not what they want.”
Trump, in fact, has made mistakes. The most recent was confusing Haley with the former speaker of the House of Representatives, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, during a speech over the weekend. The former governor of South Carolina took advantage of the error to recall the several times the businessman stated that he ran against his predecessor in the White House, Barack Obama (2009-2017), something that never happened — Trump beat Hillary Clinton in 2016 and lost to Biden in 2020.
In response, he said he had never felt so good, including “cognitively.”
In the campaign, Haley sought to sell herself as a conservative alternative, but more moderate and less chaotic than the businessman, as well as closer to the traditional wing of the party. But, after Trump’s overwhelming victory in Iowa last week, tempers cooled, and her gap with the leader in the race grew again.
The next primary in which the two face each other is precisely South Carolina, Haley’s homeland, governed by her from 2011 to 2017. Despite this, surveys show the former president with 60% of voting intentions in the state. So the disappointment in New Hampshire this Tuesday could be the harbinger of an embarrassing defeat for Haley in her backyard.
Questioned by journalists, she states that, regardless of the result in New Hampshire, she intends to remain in the race at least until Super Tuesday, on March 5th. However, Tuesday’s defeat puts even more pressure on her to give up.
Trump had already won 20 delegates in Iowa and Haley, 7. In New Hampshire, 22 are at stake, distributed proportionally among those who score 10% or more at the polls.
Thus, Trump’s victory makes a turnaround in the next primaries practically impossible, where the conservative electorate – and more aligned with the businessman – has greater weight.
The next state with a profile a little closer to New Hampshire to vote is Michigan, which allows the participation of independents. Even there, Haley has 16% of voting intentions, compared to 64% for Trump.