What to expect from Trump, Haley and DeSantis

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    Campaign signs alongside the highway in Concord, New Hampshire on January 18, 2024. The state’s primary is scheduled for January 23, 2024.

    Timothy A. Clary | AFP | Getty Images

    New Hampshire voters head to the polls Tuesday for the first primary election of the 2024 presidential cycle.

    But if former President Donald Trump has his way, the kickoff race could effectively mark the end of the road to the Republican nomination.

    Following his landslide victory in the Iowa caucuses, Trump and his supporters are looking for a Granite State blowout that will extinguish the campaigns of his two remaining challengers: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley.

    Polls indicate New Hampshire offers Haley her best chance for a win, while DeSantis, polling a distant third, is already looking ahead to South Carolina.

    Regardless of the outcome Tuesday in New Hampshire, political experts say it’s hard to envision either of Trump’s rivals catching up to his overall lead.

    “When you say it out loud, you realize it starts to sound like something out of a West Wing fan fiction,” said Chris Galdieri, a political science professor at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire.

    Here’s what to know, and what to watch out for:

    New Hampshire by the numbers

    Here are the figures to know ahead of the primary, as provided by the office of New Hampshire Secretary of State David M. Scanlan.

    Number of voting locations: 309

    Number of primary election workers: Over 6,000

    Number of candidates on the GOP primary ballots: 24

    Number of candidates on the Democratic primary ballots: 21 (and Biden isn’t one of them)

    Number of registered Republicans: 267,768

    Number of registered Democrats: 261,254

    Number of registered independents/”Undeclared”: 344,335

    Total registered voters: 873,357

    Expected Republican turnout: 322,000

    Expected Democratic turnout: 88,000

    Polling hours: Usually between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., but it can vary. State law requires polling locations to open no later than 11 a.m. and close no earlier than 7 p.m.

    Trump wants to bury his rivals

    Republican presidential candidate former US President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on January 17, 2024.

    Timothy A. Clary | AFP | Getty Images

    Trump has long treated his GOP primary victory as a foregone conclusion. After scorching his rivals in Monday’s Iowa caucuses, Trump and his supporters are ratcheting up the pressure on them to drop out.

    Trump won by a 30-point margin in Iowa, squashing any hopes DeSantis or Haley, who respectively took second and third, had for a jolt of momentum that could boost their chances in New Hampshire.

    While Tuesday’s primary result is expected to be narrower, the latest polls of likely New Hampshire GOP primary voters show Trump leading Haley by double digits.

    Just as important as the size of that lead, is who will be voting for whom. The surveys show Haley leads Trump among independents — a crucial bloc in the Granite State, where there are more “Undeclared” voters than Republicans or Democrats.

    But Trump has a massive advantage among registered Republicans, giving him the overall edge in the state. Trump’s dominance among registered Republican voters will only become more important as the nominating contest moves to redder states later this spring.

    For Trump’s supporters, there is only one thing for DeSantis and Haley to do: Get out of the leader’s way.

    “I am calling on every other candidate — all of whom have no chance to win — to drop out so we can unify and immediately rally behind President Trump,” House Republican Conference Chair Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York wrote on X, formerly Twitter. 

    Stefanik is a vocal Trump loyalist who is reportedly a contender to be his running mate.

    Other Trump supporters in Congress and conservative media, like Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas and Fox News opinion host Sean Hannity, are also declaring the race is over.

    They have been joined in recent days by a growing number of Trump’s one time Republican primary rivals — Nebraska Gov. Doug Burgum, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina — have all recently endorsed the former president.

    Under pressure, Haley needs a win

    Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks at a rally at the Omni Mt. Washington Hotel & Resort in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, U.S. January 16, 2024. 

    Faith Ninivaggi | Reuters

    Haley took third in Iowa, narrowly falling behind DeSantis despite some polls ahead of the caucus showing her leading the Florida governor. That didn’t stop her from asserting in a post-caucus speech that “Iowa made this Republican primary a two-person race.”

    In New Hampshire, Haley is right: She and Trump are the top two candidates by far in the polls, with DeSantis a distant third. Haley’s standing in the state is buoyed largely by its independent voters.

    The Granite State is “tailor-made for a candidate like Haley,” Galdieri said.

    Still, these polls still show Trump with a sizable lead. Ahead of Tuesday, Haley’s allies are already tempering expectations.

    “A strong second is going to be great, that’s wonderful,” New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said Thursday. The moderate Republican governor, who hails from a Granite State political dynasty, has endorsed and campaigned with Haley.

    Read more CNBC politics coverage

    But even a strong second might not be enough to keep Haley’s top donors on board. After Iowa, several of them worried that her campaign would be over if she failed to pull off a win in New Hampshire, CNBC reported Tuesday.

    Part of this pessimism is rooted in the political makeup of the states that come after New Hampshire. For example, Haley’s home state of South Carolina will hold its primary on Feb. 3. Known for its deeply conservative Republican electorate, polls in the Palmetto State already show Trump leading Haley there by an even wider margin than he does in New Hampshire.

    One thing that could help Haley on Tuesday, experts said, would be a higher than expected turnout, because the boost would likely be driven by independents.

    The problem for Haley: Enthusiasm drives turnout, and excitement has been sorely lacking throughout the primary.

    “The vibe is definitely downbeat,” Scala said. “The vibe is, we’re all marking time in New Hampshire until this is over.”

    DeSantis faces a reckoning

    Florida Governor Ron DeSantis makes a campaign stop at LaBelle Winery on Wednesday January 17, 2024 in Derry, NH.

    Matt McClain | The Washington Post | Getty Images

    The Florida governor’s support has been on the slide for months, and he is all but guaranteed to fare much worse in New Hampshire than he did in Iowa, where he came in a distant second to Trump.

    DeSantis is “going to make no impact here,” Scala predicted.

    Recent polls of the state’s voters show support for DeSantis at 6% or lower, versus 50% and higher for Trump.

    DeSantis widely expected shellacking on Tuesday is also a product of his resource allocation. Ahead of the Iowa caucuses, DeSantis conducted more than 170 events in Iowa. In the same time period, he held just 46 in New Hampshire, according to NBC News.

    The super PAC Never Back Down, which has worked closely with DeSantis’ campaign, said it had knocked on more than 812,000 doors in Iowa by late December. But just 385,000 in New Hampshire.

    Days away from the New Hampshire primary, DeSantis’ campaign is already shifting resources to South Carolina, while still holding some events in New Hampshire.

    “It seems like that campaign is throwing spaghetti at the wall, hoping something sticks,” Galdieri said.

    What about Biden?

    U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on his economic plan during a visit to Abbotts Creek Community Center in Raleigh, North Carolina, U.S., January 18, 2024. 

    Nathan Howard | Reuters

    President Joe Biden is running for reelection in 2024, and like Trump, he also sees few obstacles in his path to the Democratic nomination.

    But he won’t be on the ballot in New Hampshire’s Democratic primary, which also takes place Tuesday.

    That’s because the Democratic National Committee, following Biden’s recommendation, this year chose to recognize South Carolina as the first presidential primary state.

    In 2020, then-candidate Biden came in fifth in New Hampshire. But it was his subsequent victory in South Carolina that helped revive his campaign and propel him to the lead.

    New Hampshire state law, however, requires that it hold the country’s first primary.

    The DNC Rules & Bylaws Committee in October advised Democratic campaigns not to file to appear on the New Hampshire ballot, and Biden’s campaign said it would follow that guidance, NBC reported.

    While Biden’s name will not be among the 21 candidates on the New Hampshire Democratic primary ballots, voters can still write in his name.





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