Trump Wins New Hampshire, Leaving Haley on the Ropes

A third straight nomination is in sight.
Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer; Photo: Getty

New Hampshire was pretty clearly Nikki Haley’s best state, and her bid to upset Donald Trump there may have been the last hope for denying him his third consecutive presidential nomination. But alas for Never Trumpers everywhere, a Granite State win for the 45th president was called by the Associated Press the minute after the last polls closed, and his margin stands at about 11 points with almost all votes counted.

Trump’s win falls short of the 19.3 percent lead Trump enjoyed in the RealClearPolitics polling averages. Media types are talking a lot about Haley’s overperformance so far (echoing her own claim that she had a “great night”) and it seems likely her campaign will treat Tuesday as a moral victory that justifies her pushing on to the next primary in her home state of South Carolina. (“New Hampshire is first in the nation, not last in the nation,” she said in her upbeat concession speech.) There’s some reporting that she and her top advisers had a robust debate over whether to push on and risk humiliation on her own turf, but right now, publicly, it’s full speed ahead. It’s unclear how she can do better there — where she trails Trump by 30 points in the polling averages, and where Trump has massively outstripped her in endorsements by leading Republicans — than in New Hampshire, with its relatively large number of college graduates, self-identified moderates and independents, and non-Evangelicals. The road beyond South Carolina is even more treacherous, with its large clusters of expensive primaries where Haley has little or no infrastructure.

There is, however, a solid month before South Carolina votes, so any declarations that Trump has already won the nomination will have to come with an asterisk for a while.

Whether Trump fully met expectations in New Hampshire, the exit polls show him with wide-ranging support among the Republican-base voters who will determine the nomination contest. He won majorities in every age category; won non-Evangelicals (albeit narrowly) as well as Evangelicals (by better than two to one); and won 70 percent of self-identified conservatives (and 88 percent of “very conservative” voters). As polls anticipated, Haley won the registered independents who made up nearly half the primary electorate, but Trump won 74 percent of self-identified Republicans (regardless of their party registration).

Again, the problem for Haley is the likelihood that no other state is really like New Hampshire, and she couldn’t win there. She’ll have to work overtime to convince donors to stick around while she tests Trump’s vulnerability and perhaps counts on him to somehow self-implode.

Haley remains the longest of long shots, but the only genuine bad news for Trump from New Hampshire is that he didn’t force her right out of the race from the get-go. He’s now just the second Republican (the first was Gerald Ford) in a contested primary race to win both Iowa and New Hampshire back-to-back. But he’ll have to wait a bit longer to make the next stage in his once-improbable comeback official.

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