Nikki Haley faces the ‘DO or DIE’ New Hampshire primary in her mission to stop Trump

Donald Trump delivered the first blow in the 2024 Republican nomination race with his big win in Iowa on Monday night, but now attention is turning to New Hampshire, where his rivals face what may be their best and last chance to end his run to derail.

Nikki Haley is hot on the former president’s heels in a state that is more liberal and less evangelical, giving her a chance to draw blood.

β€œIf Haley doesn’t win in New Hampshire, if Trump wins in New Hampshire, the nomination is essentially his,” said Andrew Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.

β€œThis is ‘do or die’ for the non-Trump Republicans who remain.”

New Hampshire will choose its preferred candidate next Tuesday. It comes eight days after Trump’s 30-point victory in Iowa, but offers a much sterner test for the former president.

Donald Trump

Nikki Haley finished third in Iowa, but looking at New Hampshire, she said Republicans turned the nominating contest into a two-way race with Donald Trump

Haley has gained momentum, rising in the polls and securing a string of endorsements.  Now she's moving to New Hampshire, where she's second only to Trump

Haley has gained momentum, rising in the polls and securing a string of endorsements. Now she’s moving to New Hampshire, where she’s second only to Trump

No one has won both primary states since Gerald Ford in 1976.

For Trump, the prospect of a victory in New Hampshire therefore offers him a clear path to the nomination.

For Haley, it offers an opportunity to slow the former president’s juggernaut and consolidate the anti-Republicans around her.

She has gained ground in the polls and even though she finished third in Iowa, she was so close to DeSantis that she can still lay claim to being the best-placed candidate to beat Trump.

‘The experts will analyze the results from every angle. We understand that,” she told supporters on Monday evening.

“When you look at how we’re doing in New Hampshire, in South Carolina and beyond… I can safely say that we’ve turned this Republican primary into a two-person race tonight.”

In a sign of their priorities, Haley and Trump headed to New Hampshire for campaign events on Tuesday evening.

The FiveThirtyEight moving average of polls in New Hampshire puts Trump ahead at 41 percent, while Haley is in second place with 30 percent.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is behind at about six percent.

Haley lost the battle for second place in Iowa to DeSantis.  They both finished far behind Trump

Haley lost the battle for second place in Iowa to DeSantis. They both finished far behind Trump

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis finished second in Iowa.  But he polls poorly in New Hampshire and his decision to campaign in South Carolina on Tuesday suggests the state is not a priority.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis finished second in Iowa. But he polls poorly in New Hampshire and his decision to campaign in South Carolina on Tuesday suggests the state is not a priority.

Trump delivered his victory speech flanked by family and campaign staff, including sons Eric (Trump's left) and Don Jr (right)

Trump delivered his victory speech flanked by family and campaign staff, including sons Eric (Trump’s left) and Don Jr (right)

He’s not out yet, but his travel plans reflect his difficulties in New Hampshire, where his hardcore conservative message is not resonating. He first flies to South Carolina on Tuesday, where he hopes to beat Haley in her own backyard on February 24.

Karoline Leavitt, national spokesperson for the Trump 2024 campaign, said the same enthusiasm seen in Iowa would follow the former president to New Hampshire.

‘Tonight was an overwhelming resounding victory. β€œIt was a deafening blow to the Republican establishment and the Never Trump movement that is dying,” she said.

It was time for DeSantis and Haley to bow to their inevitable defeat and step aside for New Hampshire.

After the bitter arctic winds that drop temperatures below zero in Iowa, the 20F in New Hampshire will feel balmy.

The state also has a very different political composition. It is a red state that has turned purple in recent years, with the arrival of a better educated electorate. Joe Biden won the 2020 election by 60,000 votes.

That gives Haley the best possible chance to win.

β€œI love you, Iowa, but we're headed to New Hampshire,” Haley told supporters Monday night, offering herself as the best candidate to disrupt the elections of Trump and Biden.

β€œI love you, Iowa, but we’re headed to New Hampshire,” Haley told supporters Monday night, offering herself as the best candidate to disrupt the elections of Trump and Biden.

Greg Moore, state director of the Haley-supporting Americans for Prosperity Action, said: β€œShe has seven days by the time she gets here to close the deal,” he said. β€œAnd fundamentally, we are a state that has always been a state where the candidate with the momentum usually does quite well.”

He said the difference with Iowa was the breadth of participation, with a population half the size of the Hawkeye State but a much larger turnout in the primaries.

‘The meaning of that is that you go further than the people who are really politically committed. You get people who are less committed,” he said.

Additionally, Republicans have lost all 11 federal election races in New Hampshire since the state nominated Trump in 2016, putting him on a path to the White House.

‘We don’t want to lose any more. We want to start winning again and put someone in who is a better fit,” he said, adding that Haley was a much more electable proposition.

Iowans faced freezing temperatures and heavy snow in the final stages of the race

Iowans faced freezing temperatures and heavy snow in the final stages of the race

The Haley campaign released a state of play analysis indicating that incumbents and front-runners had often stumbled in New Hampshire.

β€œAnd the field is effectively down to two, with only Trump and Nikki Haley having substantial support in both New Hampshire and South Carolina,” campaign manager Betsy Ankney wrote.

β€œThat never happened in the 2016 nominating contest, when a larger field allowed Trump to win many primaries with pluralities instead of majorities.”

And Haley herself made it clear Monday night that she was ready to take on the next challenge.

β€œI have one more thing to say: Underestimate me, because that’s always fun,” she told supporters at her caucus night party in Des Moines.

“I love you, Iowa, but we’re headed to New Hampshire.”

She kept her word and stopped for an interview with WMUR, a New Hampshire TV station, as she left the stage.