5 takeaways from the New Hampshire primary

Former President Trump beat out Nikki Haley in the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, just a week after he won Iowa’s critical caucus.  

Haley narrowed her margin against Trump in the Granite State from her previous showing in Iowa, but Trump still won by roughly 10 points, as projected by Decision Desk HQ at the time of publication. 

The GOP race is now a head-to-head contest between the two White House hopefuls, with frontrunner Trump almost certain to score the nomination.  

Meanwhile, President Biden sailed to victory as a write-in candidate in the state’s Democratic primary, besting challengers from his own party. 

Here are five takeaways from the New Hampshire primary: 

Trump cements status as almost certain GOP nominee 

Trump’s win in New Hampshire, which was projected immediately at 8 p.m. ET when the last polls closed in the state, cemented his status as the almost certain Republican presidential nominee.  

Republicans had largely anticipated Trump would win the Granite State, with some even projecting a double-digit margin, though Haley’s strength among independents raised questions heading into Tuesday over how close the matchup might be.  

A polling average of New Hampshire surveys compiled by Decision Desk HQ and The Hill showed Trump at 51 percent and Haley at 37 percent. Trump had come off a resounding 30-point margin win in last week’s Iowa caucus, leading Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy to drop out and later endorse the former president. 

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who dropped his White House bid in November, also endorsed Trump in the days leading up to the New Hampshire primary.  

But if there was any question about which candidate Trump skeptics or Republican holdouts would be backing, more of those members stated that they would be endorsing Trump after he won in New Hampshire.  

“I have seen enough. To beat Biden, Republicans need to unite around a single candidate, and it’s clear that President Trump is Republican voters’ choice,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a member of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) leadership team, wrote on X.

“Four more years of failed domestic policies like the Biden Border Crisis and record-high inflation, and failed foreign policies that have emboldened our adversaries and made the world a more dangerous place, must be stopped,” he added. 

Biden brushes off primary challengers 

President Biden was projected to win New Hampshire on Tuesday, despite not being on the ballot — handily beating his Democratic challengers as a write-in candidate. 

Biden was absent from the ballot after New Hampshire Democrats bucked a Democratic National Committee (DNC) plan to kick the Granite State out of its first-in-the-nation slot by holding their primary on Tuesday, the same day as the Republican race. 

Obligated to comply with DNC rules, Biden opted not to file for the Democratic contest — and the national party said the Tuesday contest will have no bearing on delegates to the national convention later this year. 

But Biden’s supporters in New Hampshire launched a write-in campaign to boost the incumbent to victory anyway, arguing the importance of elevating Biden in the key early state.  

The president was projected to beat out Democratic candidates Marianne Williamson and Rep. Dean Phillips (Minn.), according to Decision Desk HQ, as GOP frontrunner Trump won out in the Republican race.  

The write-in win is a flex of Biden’s strength among his party’s base as he campaigns for another four years against Democratic rivals and amid poor approval numbers. 

“While we work toward November 2024, one thing is increasingly clear today: Donald Trump is headed straight into a general election matchup where he’ll face the only person to have ever beaten him at the ballot box: Joe Biden,” the Biden campaign said after projections came in.  

Haley dealt a blow 

While Tuesday offered a good night for Trump, Haley suffered a blow in the Granite State as she sought to court both independents and Republicans as the last remaining major Trump alternative candidate in the race. 

New Hampshire had offered the best chance for Haley to perform well in an early nominating state contest given undeclared voters could vote in the GOP primary. But despite some polling in recent weeks suggesting Haley was trailing Trump by single digits, she was ultimately unable to convince enough of both voting blocs to rally around her campaign.  

That’s also despite Haley securing the endorsement of popular four-term Gov. Chris Sununu (R).  

Still, Haley projected in a speech to supporters on Tuesday evening that she wasn’t dropping out of the GOP presidential primary yet even as full results of the primary had not yet been tabulated, saying “the next one is my sweet state of South Carolina.”  

But, her loss in New Hampshire raises fresh questions around her viability as Trump and Haley prepare for South Carolina’s GOP primary next month. Polling shows the former U.N. ambassador trailing Trump in her home state.  

A polling average of South Carolina surveys compiled by Decision Desk HQ and The Hill has Trump at 61 percent and Haley at 27 percent.  

Trump win highlights divide in GOP 

Though Trump’s win in New Hampshire was projected fairly quickly, the former president didn’t enjoy the same kind of landslide he saw in Iowa last week. 

With 74 percent of votes reported at the time of publication, Decision Desk HQ put Trump at 54.8 percent to Haley’s 44 percent, a margin of around 10 points.  

Exit polling also indicated that Trump and Haley courted starkly different voters. Exiting polling from CNN showed 80 percent of Trump supporters who believed President Biden did not legitimately win the 2020 election compared to 17 percent who said he did. Conversely, 83 percent of Haley supporters said Biden did legitimately win the 2020 election, compared to 15 percent who said he did not.  

The CNN exit polling also showed that about 40 percent of those who cast their ballot for the former U.N. ambassador did so out of opposition to her rivals.  

Though Trump is likely to ultimately enjoy the support of many of Haley’s voters if he becomes the GOP presidential nominee, the fractures demonstrated in the GOP primary suggest the party may see a faction of voters struggling to coalesce around Trump. 

Primary season looks short and drama-free 

“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 to go,” Haley promised in remarks after her projected loss in the Granite State.  

But some in the party have long predicted that back-to-back Trump wins in Iowa and New Hampshire could all but lock in the Republican nomination for the former president. 

Trump has been running as a de-facto incumbent in the 2024 race, boasting a double-digit lead in national polling. And though a crowded field of candidates jostled for months in a battle to be the top Trump alternative, some observers have said the race was essentially set when Trump announced.  

Four top White House contenders dropped out of GOP running just this month, winnowing the race to a one-on-one between Trump and Haley.  

On Tuesday, Haley touted that her campaign “got close to half the vote” — but her campaign now faces questions about whether that’s enough to prove she’s competitive for the nomination, and to fuel her campaign toward South Carolina’s February primary and beyond. 

Otherwise, the Republican party’s primary season could be over just weeks after it started.  

The race now faces a monthlong gap before the next key state weighs in, with South Carolina’s first-in-the-South GOP primary set for Feb. 24. 

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