Former President Donald Trump defeated former South Carolina Gov.Nikkie Haley in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, besting his last major challenger for the 2024 Republican nomination in what had been her strongest state — and moving closer to a general election rematch against President Biden.
The Associated Press called New Hampshire for Trump at 8 p.m. EST, just as the last polls closed there. With more than 80% of precincts reporting, Trump led Haley 55% to 44% — an insurmountable margin given the composition of the votes yet to be counted, according to AP.
Yet Haley claimed in her runner-up speech that by garnering “close to half of the vote,” she’d earned the right to continue her campaign — even as she congratulated Trump and said he’d “earned” his win.
“We still have a ways to go, but we keep moving up,” Haley said. “New Hampshire is first in the nation. It is not the last in the nation. This race is far from over. There are dozens of states left.”
In response, a fuming Trump spent most of his speech Tuesday falsely attacking Haley as an imposter who had claimed victory.
“Somebody ran up to the stage, all dressed up nicely,” he said, referring to Haley. “She didn’t win. She lost.”
But “I don’t get too angry,” Trump continued. “I get even.”
Did Haley miss her last best chance?
Trump’s victory in the Granite State’s first-in-the-nation primary comes on the heels of his historic 30-point win last week in the Iowa caucuses — a margin that forced that state’s distant second-place finisher, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, to end his campaign and endorse Trump just days before New Hampshire.
The Iowa results left Haley, who previously served as United Nations ambassador under Trump, with precisely what she had been hoping for all along: a “two-person race” in a state where pre-primary polling showed independent voters and moderate Republicans putting her within striking distance — and in some cases, within single digits — of the former president.
Given Trump’s strength with Republican voters, the hope for Haley was that a one-on-one upset in New Hampshire — or even a very narrow loss — would propel her into the Feb. 24 primary in her home state of South Carolina, the next major contest on the GOP calendar, with significant momentum.
But Haley’s failure to fully capitalize in New Hampshire now casts doubt on whether she can compete in the far more Trump-friendly primaries to come, and raises immediate questions about whether she will step aside or keep running — perhaps as a backup option just in case Trump’s legal problems eventually destabilize his campaign.
Haley’s team had long targeted New Hampshire — which has a large concentration of centrist, college-educated Republicans and allows independent voters to participate in party primaries — as the best place to put a win on the board and potentially complicate Trump’s march to a third-straight GOP nomination.
For months, a divided field of Republican rivals held Trump under 50% in the New Hampshire polls. Then, as summer turned to fall, Haley broke from the pack and started to surge on the strength of solid debate performances and the endorsement of popular GOP Gov. Chris Sununu. Some polls showed her at or above 40%.
Reflecting her rise, Haley’s campaign and its allied super-PACs spent a total of nearly $30 million on TV, radio and digital ads in New Hampshire — roughly double the $15 million spent on Trump’s side. At one point, Haley went so far as to joke that New Hampshire would “correct” the Iowa results.
With DeSantis out of the picture, Haley and her former employer focused their fire on each other in the final days of the race.