Jan 23, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Why New Hampshire is Haley's best chance to beat Trump

Nikki Haley wearing a blue coat walks with people holding signs in her support

Republican presidential candidate and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley visits a polling location at Winnacunnet High School in Hampton, New Hampshire on Jan. 23. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Former UN ambassador Nikki Haley is aiming for momentum out of New Hampshire's presidential primary against former President Trump — and it may be her last hope to do so.

Why it matters: Independent voters make up a large portion of New Hampshire's electorate, and her polling has been stronger in the Granite State than other early primary locations.

Details: Haley is vying for the support of the 40% of independent voters that make up New Hampshire's electorate.

  • The lead strategist for super PAC SFA Fund, Mark Harris, set expectations in New Hampshire on Tuesday afternoon.
  • "We were right around 20[%] in Iowa," he said. "We're gonna do much better than that tonight. That is success."

New Hampshire Republicans are less conservative and evangelical than Republicans in Iowa, where Haley took third place.

  • Haley has been seen as representing traditional conservative values, while Trump has coalesced the GOP largely behind him since 2016.

What they're saying: Haley's campaign is fighting the perception that New Hampshire could be her best performance.

  • They're banking on her attracting independent and unaffiliated voters, in a Tuesday letter from campaign manager Betsy Ankney.
  • "Nikki's been up against this before. No one in South Carolina thought she had a chance," Ankney's letter said. "The entire political class — including many who are now supporting Donald Trump — lined up against her."
  • She has vowed that the New Hampshire contest won't be her last and has said she'll stay in the race till Super Tuesday.

Eleven of the 16 Super Tuesday election states have open or semi-open primaries, where there is "significant fertile ground for Nikki," her campaign manager said.

  • "A month in politics is a lifetime," Ankney said. "We're watching democracy in action. We're letting the people have a voice."

Be smart: Recent polling shows Trump with 50% of support, per CNN, following Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' departure from the race.

  • Haley stands at 39% — with their gap widening to double digits.
  • Haley won 100% of the first ballots cast at midnight on Tuesday — all six of them — in the small township Dixville Notch.

By the numbers: In 2016, just over half of New Hampshire voters self-identified as Republicans, according to ABC News.

  • And the state has one of the largest percentages of registered voters who are't registered as either a Democrat or Republican, per ABC.

Worth noting: President Biden is not on the state's primary ballot due to a conflict between the state's legislators and the Democratic National Committee.

Go deeper: Nikki Haley tears into Trump's "fellas"

Axios' Sophia Cai contributed reporting.

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