Trump seeks control of GOP primary in New Hampshire against Nikki Haley

Nikki Haley is Donald Trump's last major rival

The biggest question is whether Trump's last major rival, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, will be able to eat into his margin or pull off an upset outright The biggest question is whether Trump's last major rival, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, will be able to eat into his margin or pull off an upset outright | AFP

Donald Trump is aiming for a commanding victory on Tuesday in New Hampshire, securing a sweep of the first two Republican primary races that would make a November rematch with President Joe Biden look more likely than ever.

The biggest question is whether Trump's last major rival, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, will be able to eat into his margin or pull off an upset outright. Haley has dedicated significant time and financial resources to New Hampshire, hoping to appeal to its famously independent-minded electorate.

In the first results released early on Tuesday, all six registered voters of tiny Dixville Notch cast their ballots for Haley over Trump. The resort town is the only one in New Hampshire this year that opted to vote at midnight.

Trump won New Hampshire's Republican primary big during his first run for president in 2016, but some of his allies lost key races during the midterms two years ago. Haley also has to contend with an opponent who has a deep bond with the GOP base and has concentrated on winning the state decisively enough that it would effectively end the competitive phase of the Republican primary.

If successful, Trump would be the first Republican presidential candidate to win open races in Iowa and New Hampshire since both states began leading the election calendar in 1976 a clear sign of his continued grip on the party's most-loyal voters.

Trump's allies are already pressuring Haley to leave the race and those calls will intensify if he wins New Hampshire easily. Were she to drop out, that would effectively decide the GOP primary on its second stop, well before the vast majority of Republican voters across the country have been able to vote.

Haley has been campaigning with New Hampshire's popular Republican governor, Chris Sununu, a Trump critic. She insists she's in the race for the long run, telling supporters at a VFW hall in Franklin on Monday that America does not do coronations.

This is about, do you have more of the same, or do you want someone who's going to take us forward with new solutions, Haley told reporters, also saying that, We can either do the whole thing that we've always done and live in that chaos world that we've had, or we can go forward with no drama, no vendettas and some results for the American people.

This is a two-person race, she added.

Haley and Trump were both hoping to capitalise on high-profile recent departures from the race. Haley could get a lift from some supporters of former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who campaigned around decrying Trump but ended his bid shortly before Iowa's caucus last week. Trump, meanwhile, may be able to consolidate support from conservative voters who were supporting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who dropped his White House bid on Sunday.

Trump, who appeared at a pre-primary rally in Laconia with one of his former primary rivals, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, was already looking ahead to being the race's last Republican candidate. Asked during a Monday interview with Newsmax about Haley possibly abandoning her campaign after New Hampshire, the former president said he'd never call on her to do that but added, Maybe she'll be dropping out Tuesday.

Scot Stebbins Sr., who attended Trump's rally in a Make America Great Again baseball cap, called him the greatest president we've had since Abraham Lincoln adding that Trump has done nothing but good for our nation.

Stebbins said he thought the four criminal cases and 91 felony counts Trump is facing constituted a witch hunt and said Trump would get rid of all the corrupt politicians who have been in there too long that are getting paid off.

He can't be bought, Stebbins said. He's a true American. He always has been.

Democrats were also holding a primary Tuesday, but it was unlike any in recent memory.

Biden championed new Democratic National Committee rules that have the party's 2024 primary process beginning on February 3 in South Carolina, rather than in Iowa or New Hampshire.

He argued that Black voters, the party's most reliable constituency and a critical part of his win in South Carolina that revived his 2020 primary campaign after three opening loses, should have a larger and earlier role in determining its nominee.

New Hampshire's Democrats, citing state laws dictating that their state hold the nation's first primary after Iowa's caucus, defied the revamped order and pushed ahead with their primary as scheduled.

Biden didn't campaign here and his name won't be on the ballot, meaning the state's Democrats can vote for the president's two little-known major primary challengers, Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips and self-help author Marianne Williamson. Still, many of New Hampshire's top Democrats backed a write-in campaign that they expect Biden to handily win.

Some voters who might otherwise back Democrats could also vote in the more-competitive Republican primary if they are undeclared.

Karen Padgett is an undeclared voter who saw Haley on Monday. She said she'd voted for Trump in the last two elections but didn't plan to do so again but also is really annoyed with Joe Biden that he kind of wrote New Hampshire off.

Her statement is everybody's so old there, they're so entrenched, Padgett said of Haley's promises to shake up Washington in ways that Trump pledged to, but never did. Let's get some new people in there.

Instead of focusing on New Hampshire, Biden was joining Vice President Kamala in northern Virginia for a rally in defence of abortion rights, which Democrats see as a winning issue for them across the country in November.

There's nonetheless a growing sense of inevitability around November being a reprisal of Biden versus Trump. Both men have been criticised by their opponents over age Biden is 81, Trump 77 and each has painted the other as woefully unfit for another White House term.

Public opinion polls suggest most Americans oppose a rematch. An AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll in December found that 56 per cent of US adults would be very or somewhat dissatisfied with Biden as the Democratic nominee and 58 per cent felt the same about Trump as the GOP pick.

Some New Hampshire voters expressed similar frustration.

Jeff Caira, 66, a Republican from Sanbornton, said he was undecided in the primary but that he wanted a candidate who will tackle the issues, rather than address the baggage that the other two candidates seem to have.

He said he was disappointed" that as large as the US is, the two front-runners are the best we have to offer." 

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