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Donald Trump dominated last week’s Iowa caucuses. Now he hopes to carry the momentum into Tuesday’s Republican primary vote in New Hampshire, the next — and potentially decisive — stage in the race for the party’s presidential nomination.
New Hampshire voters tend to be more centrist than the more conservative, evangelical Christian Republican voters in Iowa. Independent voters can also decide whether to vote in the Republican or Democratic primary in New Hampshire. This has raised Nikki Haley’s hopes that she could spring a surprise victory on Trump.
Up for grabs in the New Hampshire Republican primary are 22 delegate votes, awarded in proportion to Tuesday’s tally, for the party’s national convention in July — when 1,215 will be needed to win the official nomination. Trump’s win in Iowa on Monday has already handed him 20 votes.
Meanwhile, the Democratic primary will be much less consequential for 2024, but could still tell us something about President Joe Biden’s popularity within his own party.
Here are five things to watch in New Hampshire’s primary polls on Tuesday.
Can Haley beat Trump?
Haley is betting it all on New Hampshire after a disappointing third-place finish in Iowa behind Trump and Florida governor Ron DeSantis. The former US ambassador to the UN is betting that a coalition of more centrist Republicans and independents will get behind her as an alternative to Trump — and that a victory in New Hampshire will give her momentum ahead of the race’s next primary contest, in her home state of South Carolina on February 24.
But Trump still has a loyal base in New Hampshire, and Haley will need to vastly over-perform opinion polls if she is going to be able to pull off a victory there. The latest FiveThirtyEight average shows Trump in a comfortable lead, at 48 per cent, with Haley trailing in second at 34 per cent, and Florida governor Ron DeSantis in a distant third place, at about 5 per cent.
What will happen to DeSantis?
DeSantis put nearly all of his campaign’s time, money and energy into Iowa, and invested much less in New Hampshire. So it is little surprise that he is polling so poorly in the New England state.
DeSantis has held a handful of campaign events in New Hampshire in recent days, but now appears more focused on South Carolina, where the overwhelmingly conservative, Christian electorate looks more like Iowa — and should be more favourable to a candidate who has taken a hard line on abortion, trans rights and other cultural issues.
DeSantis has said he can beat Haley in her home state. But his campaign has been dogged with problems and it remains unclear whether he has the funds or polling momentum to keep running until the South Carolina contest in late February.
Will anybody drop out?
Haley and DeSantis both insist that they are in the race until at least Super Tuesday, on March 5, when more than a dozen states will hold Republican primaries.
But a weak performance in New Hampshire would inevitably bring pressure for them to drop out.
Billionaire donor Ken Langone told the Financial Times last week he was prepared to give Haley “a nice sum of money” but may wait until after Tuesday’s primary ballot before making the “major gift”. “If she doesn’t get traction in New Hampshire, you don’t throw money down a rat hole,” he said.
Haley received another blow on Friday, when Tim Scott, the South Carolina lawmaker she appointed to the US Senate in 2013, threw his weight behind Trump, who enjoys almost 60 per cent backing among Republicans in the latest opinion polls in Haley’s home state.
What will independent voters do?
A plurality of the New Hampshire electorate is undeclared, or independent, and unaffiliated with either main political party. The Republican primary there on Tuesday will be an “open primary”, meaning registered Republicans and independents who decide to vote will be able to cast a ballot.
How many independent voters turn out — and who they vote for — may give an indication of the direction political winds are blowing heading into November’s general election.
Unlike Iowa, which has trended Republican in recent election cycles, New Hampshire is a swing state, and Republicans and Democrats will be poring over voter patterns on Tuesday for hints of how the parties might fare there in the autumn.
What will happen in the Democratic primary?
The Democratic National Committee wanted to strip New Hampshire of its “first in the nation” status and hold the party’s first primary of the year in South Carolina, rather than New Hampshire. Local Democrats were not impressed.
The state pushed back and will nevertheless hold a primary on Tuesday, even though Joe Biden, the Democratic incumbent president and the party’s likely nominee, will not be on the ballot.
The Biden campaign has encouraged New Hampshire Democrats and independents to “write in” Biden — meaning, as it sounds, simply to write the president’s name on the ballot — given he faces a long-shot challenge from Dean Phillips, a Minnesota congressman who is running for the nomination and says his party needs a younger candidate.
The results in the primary are highly unlikely to trouble Biden’s official nomination at the party’s national convention in August. But the outcome on Tuesday might offer a barometer of his grassroots support in a critical swing state.
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