Welcome to the New Hampshire Republican primary, otherwise known as the Graveyard of Broken Blogger Dreams. If Iowa proved that political polling in this cycle can be effectively predictive in a caucus, get ready for a real blowout tonight for Donald Trump.
Nikki Haley’s betting that her more moderate approach will appeal to the New England voter set, but that’s not what polls show this past week. At the moment, Trump has a 22-point lead in the RealClearPolitics aggregate average in the Granite State, and hasn’t been below 50% in any poll here in the past two weeks. Haley hasn’t led here, ever, and still hasn’t broken 40% in any poll. The last time Trump trailed was in January 2023, and that was when Ron DeSantis led two UNH polls.
In fact, Trump hit his peak in today’s Suffolk/Boston Globe tracking poll. That came as DeSantis’ voters shifted in favor of Trump over Haley, albeit marginally:
With Ron DeSantis out of the GOP race, Donald Trump has extended his lead over Nikki Haley in New Hampshire, according to the latest Suffolk University/NBC10 Boston/Boston Globe tracking poll.
Trump gained 3 percentage points in the final tracking poll before Tuesday’s first-in-the-nation primary, giving him a 60%-38% edge over Haley. About 1% of those surveyed chose someone else, 1% were undecided and less than 1% refused to answer. The survey of 500 likely Republican primary voters was conducted from Jan. 21-22. The margin of error is 4.4%.
At the beginning of the month, the Suffolk/BG tracking poll put Trump at 46% and Haley at 30%. Having DeSantis, Chris Christie, and Vivek Ramaswamy pull out freed up 22% of the voting base. Haley only picked up eight points, while Trump picked up eleven, and that likely tells us something about the momentum from Iowa too.
As I wrote yesterday, the primary seems to be more of a referendum on Trump’s status as the party incumbent than a real competitive nomination process. But on some level, it’s surprisingly substantive too. Politico Playbook reported earlier that Trump has relied on a strong issue set for his New Hampshire campaign, and it’s Haley that has relied mainly on personal attacks:
An underappreciated feature of Trump’s strength against Haley in New Hampshire is that Trump has run a far more issues-based campaign than she has.
While Trump’s personal insults and off-the-wall comments attract most of the media attention, Trump’s TV advertising over the last few days has been highly disciplined.
It focuses on just two issues: immigration, hitting Haley from the right with specific references to unpopular (in a GOP primary) things she’s said, and Social Security, attacking her from the left by claiming she will raise the retirement age and gut benefits. Haley’s ads, meanwhile, are about electability, general exhaustion with Trump and Biden, and generational change.
As for Haley’s chances, they don’t look good. Politico Playbook puts them somewhere between slim and It’d take a miracle:
If Haley defeats Trump today, it will be one of the greatest primary upsets in history.
True, and it could boost her chances in South Carolina’s primary, which takes place … a month from now. Democrats’ primary will take place this Saturday, but Haley will have a month to rally her native state to her campaign. That too would take a miracle, as RCP’s aggregate average there has Trump up by 30 points over Haley, 52/22. There hasn’t been a fresh poll there since the beginning of the month, and not too much polling there overall in this cycle. But since DeSantis and Haley jumped into the race last spring, Trump’s smallest lead over the runner-up has been 28 points in South Carolina.
What about Nevada? That caucus takes place in 10 days, but don’t expect a miracle there. The most recent poll in the Silver State comes from Emerson, and Trump leads with 73% of GOP caucus-goers. Haley’s not on the caucus ballot anyway, apparently. She opted to go on the primary ballot, and Haley will be the only Republican in the February 6 primary; Trump will be the only formal option in the February 8 caucus, and the party will assign its delegates from the caucus results.
That makes tonight’s results more or less final in the primaries, one would imagine, unless something radically alters the landscape. A big win here for Trump would undercut any argument Haley has for continuing her challenge to his quasi-incumbency, and that would leave her in position for humiliation in South Carolina … if she chooses to keep going.
The polls are closed already in some parts of the state, but they won’t all close until 8 pm ET. Don’t be surprised by an early call, but it won’t come until after 8 — even though some results are already showing up. Our partners at DecisionDeskHQ will have the live results here, so you don’t need to go anywhere else.
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That being said… One thing we can do is compare how Trump is doing relative to his 2016 vote share in towns that are fully or nearly fully reporting results. I took at look at five — Concord, Weare, Seabrook, Alton, and Conway — and Trump’s doing an average of 20 points better than in 2016. As a crude guess, that would put him somewhere around 55 percent of the vote. If Haley gets the remaining votes, that would shake out as a high single-digits or low double-digits win for Trump. In other words, a little better than expected for Haley.
So far, that’s what we’re seeing too, about half the gap that the polls suggested. That may be enough for Haley to claim a moral victory, but New Hampshire’s electorate is far more suited to her — and South Carolina’s is far more suited to Trump.
The latest episode of The Ed Morrissey Show podcast is now up! Today’s show features:
- Will this be the shortest competitive primary in memory? Donald Trump can arguably clear the field with a big win in New Hampshire.
- Andrew Malcolm expresses his frustration with the primary system and its front-loading of two small states.
- We also discuss the football playoffs with all of the enthusiasm that two guys whose teams have already lost can muster.