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  4. Trump defeats Indian-origin Nikki Haley in New Hampshire primary, rematch with Biden more likely

Trump defeats Indian-origin Nikki Haley in New Hampshire primary, rematch with Biden more likely

The results were a setback for Haley, Trump's sole challenger, whose options for a presidential nomination are reducing quickly. Trump has now become the first Republican presidential candidate to win primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire since both states began leading the election calendar in 1976.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Washington Updated on: January 24, 2024 13:07 IST
US presidential elections, Donald Trump, Nikki Haley, New Hampshire
Image Source : AP Republican presidential rivals Donald Trump and Nikki Haley

US elections 2024: Former US President Donald Trump on Tuesday (local time) secured a major triumph in the New Hampshire primary ahead of the presidential elections in November this year, tightening his grip on the Republican presidential nomination and bolstering chances of a 2020 rematch with President Joe Biden. The results proved a setback for Indian-origin former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, the sole challenger for Trump, despite a stronger-than-expected performance in the primary against all odds.

According to estimates by the Associated Press, Trump has secured 36,655 votes (52.5 per cent), while Nikki Haley managed to garner 34,013 votes (46.5 per cent) as of 6:30 am (US time). Haley was rooting to cut into Trump's margins and had invested significant time and financial resources into winning the state, as she secured a clean sweep on all six votes of the tiny Dixville Notch of New Hampshire on Tuesday midnight. She had intensified her criticism of the former president, questioning his mental acuity and pitching herself as a unifying candidate.

"I want to congratulate Donald Trump on his victory tonight. He earned it, and I want to acknowledge that," the former South Carolina governor said in New Hampshire. However, Haley said that the GOP contest was "far from over" with many states left to vote, as she looked forward to her home state of South Carolina.

Trump is now the first Republican presidential candidate to win primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire since both states began leading the election calendar in 1976, a striking sign of how rapidly Republicans have rallied around him to make him their nominee for the third consecutive time. He garnered support from the evangelical conservatives who are influential in Iowa and New Hampshire’s more moderate voters, boosting his chances in the presidential race.

On the other hand, the path to the presidential elections for Haley is narrowing quickly, as she was unable to capitalise on New Hampshire’s more moderate political tradition. Haley can only hope for the best in South Carolina's primary on February 24, where she hopes to show a strong standing, being the state's former governor. However, South Carolina is a deeply conservative state where Trump is exceedingly popular, which can deliver a politically devastating result for Haley.

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 now that Trump has won both primaries. However, Haley insisted on Tuesday morning that New Hampshire would 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.”

Democrat primaries

Meanwhile, New Hampshire Democrats, in defiance of the national party, moved forward with a primary in which Joe Biden didn’t campaign. With three per cent of the expected vote counted, Biden won the primary through an unusual write-in campaign, getting about 73 per cent of the vote. Dean Phillips from Minnesota was a distant second with about 17 per cent votes and self-help author Marianne Williamson had four per cent.

Biden’s name was not on the ballot and the primary will not award delegates because it was held in violation of the Democratic National Committee, which declared the contest "meaningless". New Hampshire Democrats scheduled its primary in its traditional first-in-the-nation position, flouting the DNC’s decision to promote South Carolina to the lead slot instead. 

That triggered party rules against rogue primaries, which prohibited Biden from campaigning or so much as putting his name on the ballot in New Hampshire. New Hampshire Democrats organised a write-in campaign on Biden’s behalf, eager to avoid the embarrassment of the president finishing behind one of his challengers. However, most of the focus was on the Republican side and whether Trump’s march to the nomination could be slowed. 

Trump's way ahead

Trump’s position in the contest is remarkable considering he faces 91 criminal charges related to everything from seeking to overturn the 2020 presidential election to mishandling classified documents and arranging payoffs to an adult film star. However, the former President turned those obstacles into an advantage among Republican voters, by arguing that the Justice Department was politicised and he was framed for a "witch-hunt". This seemed to have considerable impact considering his landslide win in Iowa primaries recently.

As Trump begins to shift his attention to Biden and a general election campaign, it remains to be seen whether the former president’s framing of the legal cases will persuade voters beyond the Republican base. Trump lost the popular vote in the 2016 and 2020 elections and has faced particular struggles in suburban communities from Georgia to Pennsylvania to Arizona that could prove decisive in the fall campaign. Additionally, Trump faces another challenge as a New York court is considering whether he should pay additional damages to a columnist who last year won a $5 million jury award against Trump for sex abuse and defamation. He has no choice but to appear in court when the criminal cases begin, which could happen later this year.

On the other hand, Biden faces his own slew of challenges, particularly over concerns about his age at 81 years old. Dissent is also building within his party over Biden’s alliance with Israel in its war against Hamas, putting the president’s standing at risk in swing states like Michigan.

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. 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 losses, should have a larger and earlier role in determining its nominee.

There is nonetheless a growing sense of inevitability around November being a reprisal of Biden versus Trump. 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.

(with inputs from agencies)

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