Jan 24, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Trump fumes in victory, Haley spins in defeat: Takeaways from New Hampshire

From left: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Vivek Ramaswamy, Sen. Tim Scott and Eric Trump join Donald Trump onstage for his New Hampshire victory speech. Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images

New Hampshire's voters last night drove home a rare consensus between Donald Trump, President Biden's campaign, and top Republicans in Congress: The GOP primary is over, and it's time for the general election to begin.

Why it matters: There's one problem — Nikki Haley, who appeared headed to a double-digit loss to Trump late Tuesday, used her concession speech to insist that the race is "far from over." A disgusted Trump lashed out in response, dropping any pretense of civility as he ripped Haley as an "imposter" standing in his way.

3 takeaways from New Hampshire

1. Haley celebrates second-place finish — in a two-person race.

  • You wouldn't know it from the tone of her speech, but the former UN ambassador's path to the nomination is virtually non-existent after she failed to win in moderate New Hampshire, the most favorable state for her on the early primary map.
  • "Today, we got close to half of the vote," an upbeat Haley declared to the raucous crowd at her watch party, where she vowed to challenge Trump next month in her home state of South Carolina and beyond.
  • Even with her odds evaporating, Haley delivered one of the sharpest speeches of her campaign — calmly needling Trump over his court cases, mental competence, refusal to debate, and his record of losing the 2020 election and backing several losing candidates in the 2022 midterms.
  • "The first party to retire its 80-year-old candidate is going to be the party that wins this election," the 52-year-old Haley quipped in a shot at both Trump, 77, and Biden, 81.

2. Trump goes scorched earth.

  • Haley's speech clearly got under the skin of the GOP front-runner, who unleashed a torrent of grievance-filled posts on Truth Social before taking the stage for a victory speech that was overshadowed by his anger.
  • "You can't let people get away with bulls**t. And when I watched her in the fancy dress that probably wasn't so fancy, I said, 'What's she doing? We won,'" Trump said.
  • Ironically, Trump repeated many of his false claims about past elections — including that he won New Hampshire in 2020 — while calling Haley "delusional" for acting as if she had a good night.
  • Demanding that Haley drop out, Trump went on to say that she would "be under investigation" if she won — ominously suggesting there are skeletons in Haley's closet that "she doesn't want to talk about."

3. Biden's campaign embraces the general election.

  • Fresh off his own write-in victory in New Hampshire, Biden issued a statement declaring that it is "now clear that Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee" and that "the stakes could not be higher."
  • Earlier in the night, news broke that Biden was shaking up his campaign's leadership — dispatching top White House aides Jen O'Malley Dillon and Mike Donilon to take over the operation in Delaware.
  • Trump is the presidential matchup that Bidenworld has been rooting for. But a drawn-out primary in which Haley continues to highlight the former president's vulnerabilities also would be welcomed.
  • As Trump told Fox News: "If [Haley] doesn't drop out, we have to waste money instead of spending it on Biden, which is our focus."

What to watch: Haley has 31 days to decide whether she wants to risk humiliation in the South Carolina primary, where polls suggest Trump has a big lead — or embrace what appears to be inevitable.

The bottom line: Haley's donors will be making a similar calculation.

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