This is either Nikki Haley’s moment or her last gasp.
A flurry of positive headlines on Monday gave the impression of a last-minute jolt in the arm for Ms Haley, the last remaining Trump alternative running for the Republican nomination. An endorsement by the conservative Wall Street Journal’s editorial board was released today, coinciding with 24 hours before voting began in neighbouring New Hampshire.
At the same time, that state’s Republican governor, Chris Sununu, published a pointed op-ed in New Hampshire’s biggest newspaper dubbing the former president “a loser” and blaming him for poor electoral performances by the GOP in 2020 and 2022.
Lastly, there’s the DeSantis equation. Despite the Florida governor dropping out after a failure to win the Iowa caucuses (faced with the prospect of an unfriendly primary calendar and stagnating donations) and endorsing Donald Trump, it appears that Mr Trump’s last remaining rival may have gotten the last laugh.
An official with the Haley campaign told The Dispatch’s David M Drucker that Ms Haley’s campaign had seen a surge in donations — more than a half million dollars — since Mr DeSantis dropped out on Sunday.
But will any of that matter? New Hampshire Republicans and the undeclared independents who vote in the state’s GOP primary have, according to most polling, largely decided to back Mr Trump for the Republican nomination. And just as Ms Haley’s campaign is seeing a silver lining to Mr DeSantis’s begrudging endorsement of Donald Trump, her opponent is laying the ground for his final victory.
Republicans in Washington began falling in line behind him just about the minute the Iowa caucus results were announced; Mr Trump now has the backing of more than half of the GOP Senate caucus and his numbers in the House grow every day. More and more members of his party are declaring the race decided, even as 49 out of 50 states (as well as the territories) have yet to hold contests.
Ms Haley’s campaign is facing a make-or-break moment in New Hampshire.
As The Independent has previously noted, her campaign needs a competitive showing in the Granite State — within a few percentage points of the former president, if not an outright victory. Mr Trump’s performance in Iowa, where he won 51 per cent of the popular vote, plays into the image of a one-candidate race; a second victory to that margin in New Hampshire would solidify it.
On Tuesday, Nikki Haley has the chance to prove that the 2024 primary isn’t over. But Donald Trump also has the opportunity to end this thing before it truly begins, allowing him to focus his time on unseating an incumbent president weakened by concerns about his age, the economy, and discontent within his own base of support regarding his handling of a crisis in the Middle East.
All eyes are on New Hampshire as the second contest of 2024 begins. Will this be the end of Nikki Haley’s bid for the presidency? Or will the dream of Mr Trump’s opponents to unshackle the GOP from his whims live on?