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Donald Trump and Indian-origin Nikki Haley face off in New Hampshire’s primary over foreign wars

With just two candidates left in the Republican race, the New Hampshire vote pits the most hawkish in Haley against the more isolationist Trump, who would rather avoid foreign entanglements in keeping with an "America First" approach.

Edited By: Ajeet Kumar @Ajeet1994 Washington Published on: January 23, 2024 22:46 IST
US Presidential candidate Donald Trump (R) and Nikki Haley (L).
Image Source : AP US Presidential candidate Donald Trump (R) and Nikki Haley (L).

Washington: Former US President Donald Trump is aiming for a commanding victory Tuesday in New Hampshire, securing a sweep of the first two Republican primary races that would make a November rematch with President Joe Biden look more likely than ever. The biggest question is whether Trump's last major rival, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, will be able to cut into his margin or pull off an upset outright.

Haley has dedicated significant time and financial resources to New Hampshire, hoping to appeal to its famously independent-minded voters. In the first results released early Tuesday, all six registered voters of tiny Dixville Notch cast their ballots for Haley over Trump. The resort town is the only one in New Hampshire this year that opted to vote at midnight. Trump won New Hampshire's Republican primary big during his first run for president in 2016, but some of his allies lost key races during the midterms two years ago.

A battle between Trump and Haley

Haley also has to contend with an opponent who has a deep bond with the GOP base and has concentrated on winning the state decisively enough that it would effectively end the competitive phase of the Republican primary. If successful, Trump would be the first Republican presidential candidate to win open races in Iowa and New Hampshire since both states began leading the election calendar in 1976 - a clear sign of his continued grip on the party's most loyal voters.

Trump's allies are already pressuring Haley, a former South Carolina governor, to leave the race before her home state hosts the South's first GOP primary on February 24. Those calls will intensify if he wins New Hampshire easily after his 30-point romp in the Iowa caucuses. Haley finished third in Iowa, behind Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who ended his campaign on Sunday. Were Haley to drop out after Tuesday's voting, that would effectively decide the GOP primary on its second stop, well before the vast majority of Republican voters across the country have been able to vote. Haley insisted Tuesday morning that New Hampshire will not be her last round.

“We're going to South Carolina,” she told reporters. “This has always been a marathon. It's never been a sprint.”

“I didn't get here because of luck": Haley

She noted that she has survived longer than other candidates. “I didn't get here because of luck,” she said. “I got here because I outworked and outsmarted all the rest of those fellas. So I'm running against Donald Trump, and I'm not going to talk about an obituary.”

Haley has been campaigning with New Hampshire's popular Republican governor, Chris Sununu, a Trump critic. But she noted that many of the Republican power brokers have lined up behind Trump, a circumstance that she said contradicts the former president's anti-establishment posturing.

“It's the political elite that are uniting around President Trump,” Haley insisted. “The political class has gotten us into this mess. We need a normal, real person to get us out of it.”

Haley and Trump were both hoping to capitalize on high-profile recent departures from the race. Haley could get a lift from some supporters of former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who campaigned around decrying Trump but ended his bid shortly before Iowa's caucus last week. Trump, meanwhile, may be able to consolidate support from conservative voters who were supporting DeSantis.

Trump, who appeared Monday night at a pre-primary rally in Laconia with one of his former primary rivals, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, was already looking ahead to being the race's last Republican candidate. Asked during a Monday interview with Newsmax about Haley possibly abandoning her campaign after New Hampshire, the former president said he'd never call on her to do that but added, “Maybe she'll be dropping out Tuesday.”

Scot Stebbins Sr., who attended Trump's rally in a Make America Great Again baseball cap, called him “the greatest president we've had since Abraham Lincoln,” adding that Trump “has done nothing but good for our nation.” Stebbins said he thought the four criminal cases and 91 felony counts Trump is facing constituted “a witch hunt” and said Trump would “get rid of all the corrupt politicians who have been in there too long that are getting paid off.”

“He can't be bought,” Stebbins said. “He's a true American. He always has been.”

What Democrats are doing?

Democrats were also holding a primary on Tuesday, but it was unlike any in recent memory.

Biden championed new Democratic National Committee rules that have the party's 2024 primary process beginning on February 3 in South Carolina, rather than in Iowa or New Hampshire.

He argued that Black voters, the party's most reliable constituency and a critical part of his win in South Carolina that revived his 2020 primary campaign after three opening loses, should have a larger and earlier role in determining its nominee.

New Hampshire's Democrats, citing state laws dictating that their state hold the nation's first primary after Iowa's caucus, defied the revamped order and pushed ahead with their primary as scheduled.
Biden didn't campaign here and his name won't be on the ballot, meaning the state's Democrats can vote for the president's two little-known major primary challengers, Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips and self-help author Marianne Williamson. Still, many of New Hampshire's top Democrats backed a write-in campaign that they expect Biden to handily win.

Some voters who might otherwise back Democrats could also vote in the more competitive Republican primary if they are undeclared. Karen Padgett is an undeclared voter who saw Haley on Monday. She said she'd voted for Trump in the last two elections but didn't plan to do so again but also is “really annoyed with Joe Biden that he kind of wrote New Hampshire off.” “Her statement is everybody's so old there, they're so entrenched,” Padgett said of Haley's promises to shake up Washington in ways that Trump pledged to, but never did. “Let's get some new people in there.”

Biden insisting Harris to focus on abortion rights

Instead of focusing on New Hampshire, Biden was joining Vice President Kamala in northern Virginia for a rally in defence of abortion rights, which Democrats see as a winning issue for them across the country in November. There's nonetheless a growing sense of inevitability around November being a reprisal of Biden versus Trump. Both men have been criticized by their opponents over age - Biden is 81, Trump 77 - and each has painted the other as unfit for another White House term. Public opinion polls suggest most Americans oppose a rematch. An AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll in December found that 56 per cent of US adults would be very or somewhat dissatisfied with Biden as the Democratic nominee - and 58 per cent felt the same about Trump as the GOP pick.
Some New Hampshire voters expressed similar frustration.

Jeff Caira, 66, a Republican from Sanbornton, said he was undecided in the primary but that he wanted a candidate who will tackle “the issues, rather than address the baggage that the other two candidates seem to have.” He said he was “disappointed" that as large as the US is, ”the two front-runners are the best we have to offer." Trump has twice won New Hampshire's Republican primary but lost the state in both of his general election campaigns. Biden finished a distant fifth in Democrats' 2020 primary before going on to win the nomination. In the November 2020 election, Biden won 52.7 per cent of the vote to Trump's 45.4 per cent.

(With inputs from agency)

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