The 2024 ‘First in the Nation’ presidential primary is officially in the books – another key mile marker on the road to the White House. New Hampshire voters gave something to almost every candidate in Tuesday’s voting. They also delivered some disappointments, too.
Former president Donald Trump’s win in the Granite State was solid by any measurement. Likewise, incumbent Joe Biden – who skipped the race after stripping the state’s Democratic primary of its delegates last year – managed to duck a pie-in-the-face embarrassment when a write-in campaign afforded him a comfortable win.
Meanwhile Nikki Haley outperformed the polls, yet she failed to rally enough independents — her claim to fame — to carry her across the finish line.
Ballots are still being counted, but with 91 percent of precincts reporting Trump had amassed 163,700 votes – or 54.5 percent of GOP ballots cast. Meanwhile, Haley was backed by 129,646 voters (or 43.2 percent of the Republican electorate).
Now, let’s take a look inside those numbers …
The former president romped to an easy win on Tuesday – and an important one, too. Trump supporters were quick to point out he’s the first Republican to win the New Hampshire GOP primary three times in a row. And winning both the Iowa caucuses and the first-in-the-nation primary by more than 50 percent is an impressive feat.
Trump now has 31 delegates to this summer’s GOP convention compared to Haley’s sixteen – a spread which is expected to widen considerably next month in South Carolina, which awards 29 of its fifty delegates to the statewide winner and divvies up the remaining 21 delegates by congressional district.
There’s no longer any doubt the Republican Party of 2024 is solidly on Trump’s side – a point he is poised to make emphatically in Haley’s backyard next month.
Still, Trump did not get what he coveted most in New Hampshire – an indisputable blowout win over Haley that would have slammed the door shut on her candidacy and freed him up to focus all this firepower on Biden. Such a victory appears to be looming on the political horizon; it will just take a little longer for Trump to get there than he had hoped.
“We got close to heaven,” the former South Carolina governor told supporters barely half an hour after polls closed. True enough. But there’s an old expression about things in which “close counts,” and presidential primaries are not on that abbreviated list.
Certainly, Haley’s showing exceeded pollsters’ expectations. Most undecideds broke her way – and she delivered on her promise to attract unaffiliated voters (along with a healthy number of crossover Democrats who abandoned their party to support her). The bad news for Haley? There simply weren’t enough of them.
Haley channeled her Inner John Paul Jones in her concession speech. (For those of you who didn’t pay attention in high school history, he was the American Revolutionary War admiral famous for saying, “I have not yet begun to fight.”) In words that are tiredly familiar to South Carolinians, Haley proclaimed herself “scrappy” and “a fighter” as she sallied forth to face what could be her most daunting challenge yet. The latest RealClear polling average has her trailing Trump by 30.2% on her home turf.
While Granite State Democrats were busy writing in his name, Joe Biden was having a rotten day hundreds of miles to the south. He and vice president Kamala Harris made a much-promoted joint appearance, their first together in the 2024 campaign, at an abortion rights rally in Manassas, Virginia. It was intended to redirect some of the national spotlight their way on primary day.
Instead, the storyline was how Biden was repeatedly interrupted — and even booed — by pro-Hamas progressive activists. They called him “Genocide Joe” and repeated their demands that he push for a ceasefire in the three-month-old Israel-Hamas War.
Also of note Tuesday: Biden’s 2020 campaign manager and deputy White House Chief of staff is leaving 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Jennifer O’Malley Dillon is heading to Biden’s campaign HQ in Wilmington, Delaware for some as-yet-undisclosed role. It seems the Titanic’s captain isn’t saying, “Steady as she goes.”
It takes a lot of nerve to say to the leader of your party, “Mr. President, I can do a better job than you.” Yet that’s exactly what retiring Minnesota Congressman Dean Phillips did. And he did better at the polls than anyone predicted. At last count, Phillips had garnered just under 20 percent of the vote – a respectable showing for a candidate most people outside his district had never heard of.
Meanwhile, self-help guru Marianne Williamson convinced 3.7 percent of New Hampshire Democrats to cast their ballot for her.
Phillips vowed on Tuesday night to carry to the fight “to South Carolina, to Michigan, and to the 47 other states.” But the odds are high he won’t be in the race by the time the leaves turn green.
‘PRESIDENTIAL FASHION POLICE?’
Politics aside, Nikki Haley can make a questionable fashion call every so often. Such was the case Tuesday evening. When she took to the stage to concede, she was wearing a blue print number that immediately had political junkies buzzing. “What on earth has she got on?” a South Carolina female political operative unaffiliated with any presidential campaign texted us. “It looks like it was made from the slipcovers on grandma’s furniture!”
The outfit apparently caught Trump’s disapproving eye, too. Haley was already under his skin for the very same thing when she had conceded in Iowa eight nights earlier—delivering a speech filled with so much bombast and bravado that listeners had to remind themselves she’d actually lost.
“I find in life you can’t let people get away with bullshit,” Trump said as he lit into his Republican rival. “Let’s not have somebody take a victory when she had a very bad night. She had a very bad night,” Trump said. And he went after the dress, too. Twice, in fact, saying one time, “And when I watched her in the fancy dress… I said, ‘What’s she doing?’ We won. And she did the same thing last week.”
The line made Trump’s supporters in the room laugh. But is poking fun at a dress — even a questionable one — really a smart way to attract women voters?
In her speech, Haley repeated a phrase she turned to often in Iowa and New Hampshire.
“There are dozens of states left to go. The next one is my sweet state of South Carolina.”
South Carolina is many things. But sweet? Maybe she was thinking of the Blues Brothers (“Sweet Home Chicago”) or Lynyrd Skynyrd (“Sweet Home Alabama”).
But sweet South Carolina? This from a “scrappy fighter,” no less?
‘I JUST LOVE YOU’
There was Tim Scott, beaming broadly right behind Trump during the latter’s victory remarks. The primary victor thanked our state’s junior senator for supporting him over Haley who, you will recall, promoted him to the upper chamber of Congress. Trump added, “I mean, did you ever think she would actually appoint you, Tim? You must really hate her.”
Scott stepped up to the microphone and said, “I just love you!”
That got the biggest applause of the night — and sent Scott’s stock inside Trump World soaring into the stratosphere.
Will we see these two together on stage this summer as part of a national ticket?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
J. Mark Powell is an award-winning former TV journalist, government communications veteran, and a political consultant. He is also an author and an avid Civil War enthusiast. Got a tip or a story idea for Mark? Email him at email@example.com.
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