Republican 2024 contender Nikki Haley holds two campaign events in New Hampshire this week that will put a focus on retail politics in the critical early primary state – as Haley becomes the first Republican formally to challenge former President Donald Trump for the party’s nomination.
Haley’s stops in the Granite State will lay the groundwork for her recently launched campaign as the field starts to ramp up, with Trump already in the mix. Haley, a former South Carolina governor and U.S. ambassador to the UN during the Trump administration, could soon be joined by others such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., – all speculated to be contemplating 2024 bids as well.
“We’ve lost the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections. Our cause is right but we have failed to win the confidence of a majority of Americans,” said Haley in her first campaign rally in Charleston, South Carolina, on Wednesday. “Well, that ends today.”
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Why New Hampshire?
New Hampshire is key for presidential hopefuls. The state will host the first Republican primary in 2024.
New Hampshire also presents a unique opportunity for Haley who is up against more well-known Republicans like Trump and possibly DeSantis, according to Tom Rath, longtime GOP consultant in the Granite State and former National Republican Committee member.
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“This becomes Act One,” said Rath, who is also a presidential campaign veteran who advised candidates including George W. Bush and Mitt Romney, of Haley’s stops in New Hampshire. “You’ve got to show strength, you’ve gotta develop a candidacy with a message and approach that becomes portable to other places.”
There are other things about the Granite State that could be advantageous to Haley as she tries to establish a foothold early in her campaign:
- The state’s open primary system means independents who might not usually vote Republican could have a say in deciding the state’s winner if they decide to vote in the GOP primary. Haley could pick up those voters.
- Possibly being the only woman in the primary field could work to her benefit. Female candidates have won multiple statewide elections in New Hampshire, including currently serving Sens. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. and former Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.
8 years since N.H. Republicans ‘have been able to go shopping’
New Hampshire’s primary is also home to retail politics in its truest sense – candidates are able to get up close and personal with voters and start to establish a brand for themselves in the state, Rath said.
And Haley’s campaign stops aren’t about appealing to hard-right voters, which Rath said have already pledged their allegiance to the former president. Instead, she’ll be trying her best to portray herself as the best alternative to Trump.
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GOP voters in New Hampshire could also be eager to play a role in picking a nominee again, suggested Dante Scala, a political science professor at the University of New Hampshire. Scala noted that Haley could have a unique advantage in jumping in the race second to Trump when the race has been off to a slow start.
“It’s been eight years since New Hampshire Republicans have been able to go shopping,” he observed.
Scala said the state’s style of retail politics could energize GOP voters. “You get to see all the candidates, you get to go shopping, you get to see them in person. That’s something that Republicans haven’t gotten to do for a long time.”
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Early poll shows Haley’s challenge
- In the early GOP horserace, DeSantis is leading according to a poll from late January conducted by the University of New Hampshire – 42% of likely GOP primary voters rank DeSantis as their first choice.
- Thirty percent ranked Trump as their first choice.
- Just 8% ranked Haley as their first choice.
- The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.
Despite the polling numbers, a lot can change in the year leading up to the primary, especially for a candidate like Haley in New Hampshire, who has an opportunity to net a large portion of anti-Trump-minded voters.
In the 2024 primaries, anti-Trump Republicans and independents who might have voted for President Joe Biden in the 2020 election could turn out to be an important voting bloc for prospective GOP candidates thanks to the state’s open primaries, according to Rath.
“There are a lot of voters in play who may not necessarily be long-term Republicans, but may be anti-Trump independents,” Rath said. “(Haley could) enable that group. I don’t know if polling would show that yet.”
Being possibly the only woman in the presidential field could be a factor in New Hampshire as well, Scala said. He noted that the state is “well accustomed” to electing women, pointing to former Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and current Sens. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., who also have both previously served as the state’s governor.
“I’ve been underestimated before,” said Haley Wednesday, acknowledging her underdog status. “That’s always fun.”
Story Credit: usatoday.com