New Hampshire Reveals Trump's Swing Voter Problem
Trump won New Hampshire, but he was rejected by the voters he will need against Biden in November
In hindsight, a Republican defeating Donald Trump in this primary was wishful thinking. Nikki Haley outperformed in the polls, but she still lost handily in a state that was very favorable to her.
During her concession speech last night, Haley claimed that her campaign would continue until the primary in her home state of South Carolina. My guess is that, just like her partner in failure, Ron Desantis, Haley’s campaign will begin to unwind, and she will suspend operations before too long. Even if she stays in, her campaign is over. New Hampshire was basically designed in a lab to be a state where Trump could be defeated. If Haley can’t win in New Hampshire, she can’t win anywhere.
Despite Trump’s victory, the results show that Trump has real political vulnerabilities masked by his dominance of the Republican Primary.
Trump’s win in New Hampshire means the general election is here, and Message Box will be a resource for people everyone trying to persuade the people in their lives to get off the sidelines and vote against MAGA extremists. If you want to support this work, please consider becoming a paid subscriber.
New Hampshire is a Swing State
While there are certainly things to learn from the Iowa results, there are limits. Iowa is a solidly Republican state. Trump won it by 10 points in 2016 and 2020. The Iowa Caucus represents a tiny fraction of the state’s overall electorate. Approximately 110,000 Iowans participated in the caucus this year; and more than 1.5 million voted in the 2020 Presidential Election. This small sliver are also the most ardent, active Republicans in that Republican state.
New Hampshire, on the other hand, is a swing state. Joe Biden won it by a healthy seven points, and Hillary Clinton won New Hampshire by less than half of a percent in 2016. While New Hampshire is more Democratic than Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Georgia, etc, it is still a state where a Republican can win. What makes the New Hampshire Primary an especially interesting test case is that 46 percent of the voters in last night’s primary were Independents.
New Hampshire is also very college-educated and suburban. These are the voters who have turned against Trump since 2016 — and the ones Biden needs to hold onto in order to return to the White House. Therefore, last night’s results give us our best — and perhaps last — real look at how Trump is doing with the voters who will decide the election.
Trump’s Swing Voter Problem
Trump won the state by a decent margin. However, among the swing voters who will decide the general election, Trump showed potentially debilitating weakness. According to the exit polls, Trump lost Independent/undeclared voters by 30 points.
What makes this number especially troubling for Trump is that the universe of Independents who voted last night is a Republican-leaning slice of New Hampshire Independents.
Trump also lost moderate voters by a stunning 53 point and voters with a college degree by 15 points. Additionally, 40% of New Hampshire Republican Primary voters said they would be dissatisfied with a Trump nomination.
Like in Iowa, the exit polls asked voters if they viewed Trump as fit for the presidency if he is convicted of a crime. In Republican Iowa, a third of voters said Trump was unfit, a number that should concern every Republican. In New Hampshire, 44% said Trump would be unfit for the presidency if convicted. In swing states, Trump can’t lose 4% of his voters, let alone 44%.
It’s always worth reiterating that Trump lost in 2020. To win in 2024, he must improve with the moderate, college-educated suburban swing voters. Last night’s results show he may be doing even worse with swing voters than last time.
Why This Matters
There have been two Republican primary contests. Trump won both by overwhelmingly large margins, and my response to both highlighted why these results are bad news for Trump. Is this just me coping with a candidate I hate becoming one step closer to the presidency? Maybe. Am I zagging when everyone else is zigging for clicks? I hope not.
I want to give my readers the hard truths. I don’t want to tell my anti-Trump subscribers just what they want to hear. Simply, I am not impressed that a de facto incumbent president wiped the floor with some replacement-level Republicans running half-hearted campaigns. I am focused on how we can utilize this information in November.
I also want to counteract the false and dangerous narrative that is permeating our political discourse. Donald Trump is treated as a favorite in a race against Biden; and there is also an aura of inevitability infecting the electorate. A recent YouGov poll shows that only 32% of Americans expect Biden to win the election.
While Trump may have a slight lead and Biden must work to rebuild his coalition, Trump is not inevitable. This race is a toss-up that will likely come down to less than 100,000 votes across several states. I want Democrats to see this race as I do — a very, very winnable one if we do the work.