On to November: Trump win in New Hampshire sets up 2024 rematch with Biden

By: , and - January 24, 2024 4:40 pm

Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump takes the stage with supporters, campaign staff and family members for a primary night party at the Sheraton on Jan. 23, 2024 in Nashua, New Hampshire. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — Leading Republicans — and the Biden presidential campaign — on Wednesday rushed to identify former President Donald Trump as the presumptive GOP nominee after he won decisively in New Hampshire’s Republican presidential primary.

Trump bested Nikki Haley, his former United Nations ambassador, by more than 10 percentage points in a moderate state with an open primary that would have been expected to play to her strengths. His Tuesday victory came days after he won the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses on Jan. 15.

Rather than thrust Haley, the former South Carolina governor, into a two-person race for the GOP nomination as she’d hoped, the New Hampshire results showed Trump is virtually unbeatable in the many GOP primaries yet to come through the next months. Republican senators like John Cornyn of Texas and Deb Fischer of Nebraska issued their endorsements as Trump’s win became apparent.

“Barring some unforeseen event, Donald Trump’s going to be the Republican nominee,” said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist and partner at Firehouse Strategies. “It’s just who Republican voters want. In Iowa, New Hampshire, but also every national poll and every state primary poll, Trump’s leading by a lot. So at the end of the day, elections have consequences and Republicans like Donald Trump.”

The former president’s victory set up a general election rematch with President Joe Biden, who nearly tripled his closest Democratic rival’s vote total in New Hampshire despite not even being on the ballot.

Haley is skipping the next nominating contest, the Feb. 8 Nevada caucus, to focus on her home state’s Feb. 24 primary where she also faces a significant polling gap. She has little realistic chance of winning the nomination and may officially drop her bid in the coming days, said Todd Belt, a George Washington University professor and director of the school’s political management program.

“She’s going to have to wage a really tremendous ground game and air game to be anywhere competitive, to avoid, frankly, getting embarrassed,” he said. “I give it 50-50 odds that (she drops out) in the next day or two.”

The Biden campaign told reporters the general election campaign has arrived.

“I want to kick things off by stating the obvious: The results out of New Hampshire confirm that Donald Trump has all but locked up the GOP nomination,” Julie Chavez Rodriguez, Biden’s campaign manager, began her remarks on a Wednesday morning call with reporters.

Trump’s presumptive nomination provides a stark choice for voters, Chavez Rodriguez and other campaign officials said. In previews of likely themes throughout the next nine months of a general election campaign, they noted Biden’s support for abortion rights and Trump’s attacks on the democratic system.

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley delivers remarks at her primary night rally at the Grappone Conference Center on January 23, 2024, in Concord. (Brandon Bell | Getty Images)

Trump attacks Haley: ‘She lost’

Trump won both of the first two nominating contests, the New Hampshire primary and the Iowa caucuses, which no non-incumbent GOP candidate had ever done. The double-digit margins in both states left little doubt about the shape of the race moving forward.

In a celebratory speech after capturing nearly 55% of the vote Tuesday, Trump also claimed victory in Nevada and predicted “easily” winning South Carolina.

He took several shots at Biden and Haley, whose upbeat tone in a speech earlier in the evening seemed to irk the front-runner.

“She’s doing a speech like she won,” he said. “She didn’t win. She lost.”

With the support of New Hampshire’s centrist GOP Gov. Chris Sununu, Haley needed a victory in the Granite State to have any chance at the nomination, Trump said.

“She did very poorly, actually,” he added. “She had to win. The governor said, ‘She’s gonna win, she’s gonna win, she’s gonna win.’ Then she failed badly.”

Trump also repeated the lie that his 2020 loss to Biden was the result of fraud.

Haley says she’s ready for long race

Haley pledged to continue running at least through South Carolina, saying she was “in it for the long haul.” She has reserved $1.8 million of television ad time in South Carolina, according to the advertising tracking firm AdImpact, and debuted a 30-second commercial Wednesday that called a Biden-Trump race “a rematch no one wants.”

But the odds are against her.

Trump won majorities in the first two nominating contests, even as he faces four criminal trials. 

The prosecutions have not hurt Trump among Republican voters, who largely view them as illegitimate political exercises. Exit polling in Iowa and New Hampshire showed most GOP voters would still support Trump if he was convicted.

But even a conviction is unlikely to shake up the Republican race because of the timing. None of the criminal cases are likely to go to trial before March 5, the date known as Super Tuesday because nearly half of delegates will be up for grabs in 15 nominating contests.

Haley could technically stay in the race as long as she wants, but funding a competitive campaign will become less possible as Trump continues to rack up victories, Belt said.

Donors won’t continue contributing to a campaign that has shown no sign of winning, he said.

“They don’t want to throw bad money after bad,” he said.

Congressional Republicans see race narrowing

Key Republican senators appeared nearly ready Tuesday and Wednesday to call Trump their party’s standard bearer for 2024.

Former Senate GOP Whip Cornyn endorsed Trump Tuesday evening, saying it was “clear that President Trump is Republican voters’ choice,” and calling for his GOP colleagues to rally around the former president.

“I have seen enough,” he wrote in a Tuesday night social media post. “To beat Biden, Republicans need to unite around a single candidate.”

Fischer, of Nebraska, also offered her endorsement on social media as the New Hampshire results came in.

“It’s time for Republicans to unite around President Donald Trump and make Joe Biden a one-term president,” she wrote.

Rep. Mike Johnson, left, was congratulated by Rep. Andy Barr of Kentucky on his election as speaker in October. Barr, a Republican from Lexington, endorsed Trump in December. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, congratulated Trump on winning the New Hampshire primary in a post on social media.

“Our House Republican leaders and a majority of Republican Senators support his reelection, and Republican voters in Iowa and New Hampshire have strongly backed him at the polls,” Johnson said. “It’s now past time for the Republican Party to unite around President Trump so we can focus on ending the disastrous Biden presidency and growing our majority in Congress.”

South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said Wednesday on Capitol Hill that he was skeptical Haley could continue to stay in the race following the results of the New Hampshire primary.

“I think the path for her is very narrow, and after South Carolina (primary) gets even more narrow,” he said.

The handful of endorsements showed Trump’s strength in the party that has transformed in the past eight years into a group of Trump loyalists, Belt said.

“They came very quickly,” he said of the endorsements. “They know better than to antagonize Trump’s voters, because they’re active, they vote and they are organized.”

Not ready yet

Some Republican senators, though, were not yet ready to endorse the front-runner in interviews Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol.

Iowa GOP Sen. Joni Ernst said she “likely” wouldn’t endorse a candidate, though she didn’t entirely rule it out.

“I just think it’s good that all of these constituencies have the opportunity to select the person they feel is best qualified,” Ernst said.

But she also praised Haley when asked if Haley could have a path to winning the Republican nomination for president.

“I think she is a fabulous candidate and a great leader, but I don’t know what the polls will look like moving forward,” Ernst said.

West Virginia Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito said she might endorse a candidate, though she didn’t give any indication whether that would be Trump or Haley.

“I haven’t endorsed in the past in the presidential but … I’m considering it. Yes. I’ll just put it that way,” Capito said.

In a later interview, Capito said the New Hampshire win was a “good victory” for Trump and noted that Haley recognized that in her speech.

Arkansas Republican Sen. John Boozman said he hadn’t decided if he would endorse in the presidential primary. But he noted polling indicates Trump will likely become the nominee.

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley pledged his support for the eventual nominee, without mentioning Trump.

“Just be assured of this — I’m going to support the Republican nominee because we can’t spend four more years on inflation and an insecure border and the national security problems that are connected with criminals coming to this country.”

Utah’s Mitt Romney, a persistent Republican critic of Trump, said that even though the party’s nominating contest has “pretty much concluded,” he wouldn’t be supporting Trump for president.

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Jacob Fischler
Jacob Fischler

Jacob covers federal policy and helps direct national coverage as deputy Washington bureau chief for States Newsroom. Based in Oregon, he focuses on Western issues. His coverage areas include climate, energy development, public lands and infrastructure.

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Ariana Figueroa

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Jennifer Shutt

Jennifer covers the nation’s capital as a senior reporter for States Newsroom. Her coverage areas include congressional policy, politics and legal challenges with a focus on health care, unemployment, housing and aid to families.

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