Trump wins New Hampshire primary, dealing blow to Haley’s prez bid

Haley vows to fight on: ‘We are just getting started.’

CONCORD, N.H. — Former President Donald Trump won the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, dealing a stinging defeat to former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and other Republicans who hoped to derail his comeback bid.

Trump captured the first-in-the-nation primary a week after his landslide win over Haley and Ron DeSantis in the Iowa caucus, a victory that was so complete it prompted the Florida governor to abandon the race and return to Tallahassee.

The back-to-back wins served as stark evidence of Trump’s dominance of the Republican Party and raised pressure on Haley to join DeSantis and a dozen other former White House contenders who have ceded to the former president.

Trump immediately declared the race “over.” His allies, meanwhile, have taken to calling him the “presumptive nominee” and urged Republicans to refocus on a potential rematch with President Joe Biden in November.

Still, Trump failed to land the knockout blow he sought against Haley, who vowed to fight on during a fiery speech in Concord.

“New Hampshire is first in the nation. It is not the last in the nation. This race is far from over,” she said. “There are dozens of states left to go, and the next one is my sweet state of South Carolina.”

But the political terrain ahead looks forbidding as the race shifts to the Feb. 24 primary in her home state.

Trump has dominated South Carolina over the past two presidential cycles, and polls show him capturing nearly two-thirds of GOP support over Haley, who was twice elected the state’s governor before Trump tapped her in 2017 to join his Cabinet.

She also faces uphill battles in the races that follow, including the sweep of states that cast their ballots on March 5 and the primary in Georgia that follows a week later. Despite his feuds with GOP leaders in Georgia, polls show he has a commanding hold on Republican voters.

“We are going to win this. We have no choice,” Trump said in a Nashua victory speech he used to attack Haley for staying in the race. “If we don’t win, I think our country is finished.”

While her electoral path remained unclear, there’s no doubt that Haley’s defeat was a blow to her campaign. With DeSantis out of the race, Haley secured the head-to-head matchup against Trump she long wanted — and in favorable territory.

New Hampshire was seen by many of her supporters as Haley’s best — and perhaps final — shot of toppling Trump.

The state’s voter base is more moderate than evangelical, and Haley appealed to independents with a call to transcend Trump-driven “chaos.” Some saw it as a last chance for the “Never Trump” movement to ambush his quest for a second term.

But Trump’s loyal legion of New Hampshire supporters overpowered Haley. Many said they’re unfazed by his mounting legal challenges, including criminal charges in Fulton County and three other jurisdictions, and they echoed his calls for crackdowns on illegal immigration and violent crime.

As the Tuesday contest approached, some of Haley’s erstwhile allies gently urged her to drop out and back Trump’s campaign for a third straight GOP nomination. Trump surrogates fanned out across the state and used more bracing language.

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Georgia Republican jockeying to be Trump’s running mate, painted the race as a foregone conclusion and said Republicans are “completely eradicating” those who object to his comeback from the party.

“It would be a good choice for Nikki Haley if she drops out after this election,” she said at a stop Tuesday at a Manchester diner. “It’s not going to go well for her in her own state.”

The vote played out in a surreal environment. Much of the frenzy that jolted New Hampshire in past elections was missing. Trump mixed campaign stops with court appearances. The debates were canceled. Schedules once crammed with more than a dozen events looked downright spare, particularly after DeSantis dropped out.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu joins supporters demonstrating at a write-in rally for Joe Biden. The president skipped the New Hampshire primary after national Democrats decided to move South Carolina — and its far more diverse electorate — ahead of the state on the schedule of primaries and caucuses. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

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Adding to the strange atmosphere was Biden’s decision to skip the state entirely after national Democrats decided to move South Carolina — and its far more diverse electorate — ahead of New Hampshire on the schedule of primaries and caucuses.

Defiant local party leaders rejected the change, and long-shot Democratic contenders tried to fill the vacuum. Television ads comparing Biden to the elusive Bigfoot filled the airwaves before the vote.

But the president’s allies organized an extensive write-in campaign. They launched a website with sample ballots, sent direct mail to voters and staged sign-waving brigades all week to remind Democrats to etch his name on their ballots. Networks projected he won the vote shortly after polls closed.

“It’s a hard thing to win in a write-in campaign,” U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna of California said during a stop in Concord. “The whole country is going to notice, as they always do in New Hampshire, and they’re going to say this president has enthusiasm.”

As for Haley, she now must convince voters, donors and activists that she still has a path to victory. The reaction from U.S. Rep. Rich McCormick, a Suwanee Republican, served as a reminder of the tough climb she faces.

The first-term lawmaker defeated a Trump-backed challenger to win his suburban Atlanta U.S. House seat in 2022, and then he became DeSantis’ most prominent supporter in Georgia. Minutes after the polls closed Tuesday, McCormick announced a new endorsement.

“I am calling on my fellow conservatives to join me in uniting behind Donald Trump for president,” he said.

Haley told cheering supporters she expected more blowback to come. But she promised to stay in the race to give millions more voters a chance to weigh in.

“South Carolina voters don’t want a coronation. They want an election,” she said. “And we’re going to give them one because we are just getting started.”