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Dixville Notch went all in for Nikki Haley. Each of the town’s six citizens – the first to participate in New Hampshire’s GOP primary when its polling place opened at midnight — voted for the former South Carolina governor. 

That was not the only good news of the day for the lone remaining GOP challenger to former President Donald Trump. Haley lost the New Hampshire primary but she outperformed expectations and picked up some momentum going into upcoming primaries in Nevada and South Carolina. She proved she deserved to be in the race.

Nikki had jokingly encouraged New Hampshire voters to “correct” the outcome in Iowa, where she came in third, with 19.1% of the vote. Trump walked away with a resounding 51% of the vote in that state’s caucuses, and DeSantis won 21.2%. New Hampshire failed to do so, but they gave her a close second place behind Trump, allowing her to continue her campaign. 

DONALD TRUMP WINS AGAIN, AS FORMER PRESIDENT QUICKLY BEATS NIKKI HALEY IN NEW HAMPSHIRE GOP PRIMARY

Trump won with over 50% of the vote, as he did in Iowa. The two wins position Trump as the clear frontrunner in the race. His victory speech did not hit the gracious tone he struck in Iowa; he mocked Haley for sounding victorious, which she was not. As one analyst said, he would have done better to attack President Joe Biden as opposed to someone who has garnered a large following among moderate Republicans.

From the start, Haley has insisted she has always been underestimated. Her speech after the polls closed in the Granite state congratulated Trump, but also reiterated her arguments for being the better candidate. 

She told supporters that “New Hampshire is the first in the nation, but it’s not the last.” She also used the outcome of the race to remind voters that “We keep moving up,” and vowed that “We are just getting started.”

Trump supporters derided Haley’s appeal to independents and even some Democrats, as well as her funding from “establishment” Republicans and those whom they scornfully describe as “billionaire class” donors. Haley turns all those criticisms around to claim she is the more electable candidate.

For the former South Carolina governor, the stakes in New Hampshire were huge. Because the Granite State hosts an open primary, which allows registered party members and so-called “undeclared” citizens to vote in both the Republican and Democrat nominating contests, Haley could appeal to both independents and moderates in her own party who were seeking an alternative to Trump. 

TRUMP ‘HONORED’ BY NEW HAMPSHIRE WIN, SAYS REPUBLICAN PARTY IS ‘VERY UNITED’

Chris Christie’s exit from the race ahead of the Iowa primary boosted her numbers, since those backing the former New Jersey governor mostly came aboard the Haley bandwagon. But then Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis pulled out after the Iowa caucuses, stymieing Haley’s surge; the Sunshine state Republican quickly endorsed Trump and most of his supporters gravitated to the former president’s column.

Real Clear Politics polls going into the first-in-the-nation primary showed Trump beating Haley by 22 to 27 points; just before midnight on Tuesday night he was ahead by more than 11 points. 

Trump’s lead in the polls widened after the Iowa caucuses as DeSantis got out of the race and maybe also because voters warmed to the possibility that the former president could actually win another four years in the Oval Office. Recent hypothetical match-ups between Trump and President Biden show the Republican challenger edging ahead both nationally and in several key swing states.

What seemed a long-shot comeback for Trump has suddenly become more credible.

Republicans in New Hampshire, as in Iowa, cited immigration and the economy as their top concerns. Those are meat and potato issues for Trump. With growing anger at President Biden for allowing eight million people to come across the border illegally, immigration is quickly emerging as the greatest weakness of the incumbent and the biggest potential winner for the former president. 

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Early Fox News voter analysis showed that about 77% of the people going to vote in the GOP primary were registered Republicans, while 10% were Democrats who changed their registration last fall to allow them to participate in the open primary, and 13% were independents. If those numbers hold, that was a disappointment for Haley; independents constitute 40% of all registered voters in New Hampshire and she needed those folks to turn out in much bigger numbers to pose any threat to Trump.

The contest differed from the Iowa caucuses in a couple of noteworthy ways. Only about 21% of voters were evangelicals in New Hampshire, compared to 46% in Iowa; some 49% described themselves as “MAGA” supporters, compared to 62% in Iowa. Both of those shifts should have boosted Haley’s chances, but they did not.

Trump supporters are pushing Haley to get out of the race. The next Republican presidential campaign contests are in Nevada with both a primary on Feb. 6, followed by a caucus on Feb. 8 ; South Carolina’s primary follows later in the month. Polls for that state, where Haley served as governor, show Trump ahead by 30 points on average. In the past week, the Palmetto State’s popular Sen. Tim Scott has endorsed the former president, along with Rep. Nancy Mace, boosting his chances even more.

If Haley cannot win her home state, or comes in a distant second, calls for her to exit and to bring the party together in fighting against another four years of Biden’s presidency will be deafening.

Democrats also held a primary on Tuesday in the Granite State, rebuffing Biden’s self-serving shuffling of his party’s contests in which he put South Carolina first – the state that arguably paved his path to the nomination in 2020. 

Biden did not do well in New Hampshire in 2020; he was loathe to risk a repeat. In the end he had to rely on a write-in campaign to avoid embarrassment at the hands of Rep. Dean Phillips, a young first-term Minnesota congressman. Philips campaigned vigorously in New Hampshire, telling voters the truth — that Biden is too old to serve another four years.

Phillips was a total unknown just a few weeks ago; by the time of the primary, he was polling at around 10%. He ended up winning over 20% of the vote; like Haley, he is well funded and will continue on. 

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