Will New Hampshire be the End of the GOP Primary?
Tonight is the last chance to derail Trump's path to the nomination
Tonight is the New Hampshire primary, and like last week’s Iowa Caucus, much of the drama and excitement has been drained out of what might be the last contested election in the Republican primary. New Hampshire was supposed to be the last stand for the anti-Trump elements of the Republican Party. It’s the state where — on paper at least — Nikki Haley had the best shot to shatter Trump’s aura of invincibility. Everything feels more subdued than in New Hampshire primaries of the past. Haley is not campaigning or fighting like her political career depends on this election. There are forces within the Republican establishment that believe Trump is a danger to the nation and their prospects of victory in the fall. These folks have waved the white flag and are preparing to fall in line. Even the press, desperate for some excitement to juice ratings and traffic, appears bored by the whole thing. Everyone — especially Nikki Haley — seems to be going through the motions.
Like last Monday in Iowa, the polls suggest this will be a quick and anti-climactic evening. Although the outcome is (likely) not in doubt, the results will still be informative. As I mentioned in my post before Iowa, I will be looking at the results and the exit polls for clues about a general election match-up between President Biden and Trump. New Hampshire is a much more interesting test case than Iowa because it’s a purple-ish state, and Independents are expected to be about half the electorate tonight. So, here’s what I will be watching tonight:
1. Does Trump Win? And If So, By How Much?
According to the FiveThirtyEight average, Trump is leading Haley in New Hampshire 50.7% to 36.7%. Trump’s lead has more than doubled since the Iowa Caucus. The departures of Ramaswamy and DeSantis have helped Trump more than Christie’s absence has helped Haley.
Trump’s victory seems assured. A Haley victory would require a polling error of unprecedented size. However, the margin will be revealing. These early state primaries are all about expectations. And those expectations are getting out of control for Trump. If Haley can keep it within single digits, she will have a rationale to stay in the race until South Carolina. If she doesn’t, the race is officially over tonight and Trump will be the presumptive Republican nominee. I am very, very skeptical that Haley could win in her home state of South Carolina, but the primary would putatively continue if she does well tonight.