Nashua, New Hampshire
Donald Trump has, like a boa constrictor, squeezed the life out of the Republican primary cycle. Last night, he swallowed New Hampshire and possibly Nikki Haley too.
Haley did better than many of the late polls suggested. But that’s not saying much. She won 44 percent of the vote, finishing eleven points behind Trump. She now has the momentum to move on to South Carolina, where she is thirty points behind in polls. But if she couldn’t win a state like New Hampshire, where independents — nearly 40 percent of registered voters — can cast ballots in either primary, it seems unlikely she can win anywhere. Or, as one Trump campaign official at his campaign’s election night watch party in Nashua put it: “She’s staying in, because she’s a psycho.”
Haley did well in affluent New Hampshire Democrat-leaning districts — Concord, Lebanon and Dover — which reported early. Inevitably, that prompted some excitement that she might dramatically exceed expectations. But she didn’t do enough to overcome the wall of Trumpism elsewhere.
“This show is far from over,” said Haley in her defiant concession speech. “I find in life you can’t let people get away with bullshit,” said Trump in reply. “She’s doing a speech like she won. She didn’t win, she lost… if you remember Ron [DeSantis] was very upset because she pretended she won Iowa. Didn’t she come in third?”
Haley’s success in certain bellwether places might be a worrying wrinkle for Trump as he looks ahead to the general election in November. Haley won almost twice as many votes in Hanover, New Hampshire, as Trump won in the presidential contest in 2020. That might suggest the animus to him in many pockets of America is as strong as ever.
But Haley pitched herself to New Hampshirites as the woman who could bring stability after the chaos of Trump and Biden, someone who could rein in America’s multi-trillion-dollar debts. But Team Trump hammered her as weak on border security — Americans are now more concerned about immigration than inflation, according to the latest polls — and warned poor voters that she would come after their social security benefits. A Grand Old Party tax-cutter in age of post-liberal populism, she never really had a chance.
Team Haley spent Tuesday morning telling the world she wasn’t giving up. “While members of Congress, the press and many weak-kneed fellas who ran for president are giving up and giving in,” said her campaign manager Betsy Ankney in a memo, “we’re not going anywhere.” Perhaps not the best phrasing, given that Haley must go on to her home state to keep fighting.
Donald Trump said Tuesday afternoon that he “couldn’t care less… if she drops out that’s fine.” His campaign appears determined to wrap up the Republican race as soon as possible. At some level, however, Trump might quite want Haley to keep going, if only for the repeated pleasure of beating her over and over. As a publicity genius, too, Trump must also realize that he has sucked the energy of the primary contests.
To keep things interesting, Trump is taking pleasure in teasing fans with his possible vice presidential picks. Tonight, he brought out on stage two hopefuls, Vivek Ramaswamy and South Carolina senator Tim Scott, and made them sing for their suppers. “What we saw tonight was America First defeating America Last,” said Ramaswamy. “I say the general election begins tonight.”
“Very nice, wasn’t that nice?” said Trump after Vivek finished. Just over a week ago, he called Ramaswamy, then still a presidential candidate, “sly” and “deceitful” — but then Ramaswamy dropped out and endorsed him, so all is forgiven.
Next, Trump invited Scott, who was appointed to the US Senate by Nikki Haley when she was governor of South Carolina, up to the microphone. “This election is over,” Scott said. “It is time for the Republican Party to coalesce around our nominee and the next president of the United States: Donald Trump.”
“You must really hate her,” said Trump afterwards. “I just love you,” replied Scott. “That’s why he’s a great politician,” added Trump, pleased.
At his Election Night Party, various barmy Trumpworld celebrities mingled about, taking selfies with their fans. There was Kari Lake, who desperately wants to Trump’s vice president, but seems out of favor. There was Rudy Giuliani, the New York mayor turned Trump lawyer turned podcast host. There was George Santos, the disgraced former congressman and fantasist who was just expelled from Congress for financial malfeasance. The crowd adored them all. Nikki Haley’s candidacy will live on for another few weeks. The Trump show never ends.