Donald Trump won the New Hampshire GOP primary on Tuesday, holding off a push by Nikki Haley in a state that had been widely considered her best opportunity for a momentum-building victory.
The Associated Press called the race almost immediately after the last polls closed at 8 P.M. and Haley conceded the state to Trump not long after while pledging to continue her campaign.
The early call dashed some hopeful signs for Haley in early exit polls that showed a large share of unaffiliated voters — seen as critical to success — and a less “MAGA” electorate. Trump even appeared a bit nervous, posting on Truth Social before returns came in that it was “SO RIDICULOUS” that non-Republicans could participate.
But Trump’s second dominant showing in a week now raises a key question: For all intents and purposes, is the primary over? Haley has batted the idea away, saying recently that “The road is never going to stop here in New Hampshire, that’s always been the plan.”
But she is facing an uphill battle: Trump’s win cemented him as the first Republican presidential candidate to win open races in Iowa and New Hampshire since the states began leading the election calendar, and he has substantial momentum, including in the Feb. 24 South Carolina primary — Haley’s home state.
It comes after his landslide win in Iowa last week, after which Vivek Ramaswamy, then Ron DeSantis, bowed out of the race and endorsed him. The Florida governor’s second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses was anticipated to do little for him in New Hampshire, where tracking polls showed him stuck in the single digits.
Haley started the campaign with scant support in New Hampshire. She built up a following by holding more than 80 town hall meetings, which didn’t end until every voter who wanted a handshake got one. By the end of summer, after DeSantis had largely given up on the state, she had jumped to second place, further consolidating the anti-Trump vote after Gov. Chris Sununu endorsed her on Dec. 12.
Haley and her allies argued in the final days before the vote that the 77-year-old Trump’s “mental fitness” was in question, pointing to an episode in which he appeared to mix her name up with former Speaker Nancy Pelosi twice onstage, in addition to similar episodes in which he appeared to confuse Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
Sununu went after Trump for his usual strategy of fly-in rallies with no retail campaigning, and no questions from voters. He skipped candidate forums, refused to debate, and for the third time lost the endorsement of the Union Leader, the state’s largest remaining newspaper. But as other MAGA-lane candidates gave up, Trump consolidated their votes, and focused on turning out a loyal electorate instead of building a new one.
It worked. According to exit polls, Trump won 74% of registered Republicans, and 70% of all voters who’d made up their minds before this month. Haley won late deciders, but many of them were anti-Trump voters casting strategic votes as the field shrunk to two. One in five voters said they’d picked their candidate because they disliked the alternative — and 89% of those voters went for Haley.
The View From Nikki Haley
Haley took the stage at Concord’s Grappone Center 19 minutes after the final polls closed, celebrating that she’d won “close to half of the vote” after outlasting every other Trump challenger.
“God is so good,” Haley told supporters. “I want to congratulate Donald Trump on his victory tonight. He earned it.”
She turned her fire on the “political class” who were trying to claim the race was over. “There are dozens of states left to go, and the next one is my sweet state of South Carolina,” she said.
She did not pull punches, repeating many of her toughest recent attacks. As supporters shouted “we need an accountant” and “it’s not over,” Haley warned that nominating Trump meant risking another “senior moment” that called his competence into question. She also challenged him to a debate.
“A Trump nomination is a Biden win and a Kamala Harris,” she said. “The first party that retires its 80-year old candidate will win the election.”
She looked ahead to the South Carolina primary, pushing back on the Trump campaign’s demand for a quick exit and party unity; there would be “plenty of time to defeat Joe Biden” later.
The View From Donald Trump
Donald Trump used his speech to bash Haley’s speech and decision to stay in the race, as well as New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu and the state’s primary rules allowing undeclared voters and Democrats who switched their registration last year to vote.
“Who the hell was the impostor that went up on the stage before and, like, claimed victory?” Trump said. “She did very poorly actually.”
During his speech, he invited Vivek Ramaswamy and Tim Scott to the podium for brief remarks — two potential vice presidential options who sang his praises to the packed crowd — and predicted an easy win in South Carolina. At one point, he noted that Haley had appointed Scott to the Senate as governor, and remarked that he “must really hate her.”
“I just love you,” Scott, who endorsed Trump last week, answered.
The View From Joe Biden
“It is now clear that Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee,” President Biden said in a statement. “And my message to the country is the stakes could not be higher. Our Democracy. Our personal freedoms — from the right to choose to the right to vote. Our economy — which has seen the strongest recovery in the world since COVID. All are at stake.”