An article by: Greg Erlandson

Donald is angry because Nikki Haley remains in the race and is gathering votes from independents and alumni. The game for the Republican Party nomination is still open

Haley is largely the voice of the Republican Party of the Bush family and Mitt Romney

Before the polls had even opened in New Hampshire January 23, American political commentators were suggesting the race to be the Republican nominee for president was virtually over. After Donald J. Trump’s victory in the Iowa caucuses the week before, the rush to crown him the presumptive nominee was on in much of the U.S. press.

It may be puzzling, therefore, why Trump ended election evening in New Hampshire angry rather than celebratory. He beat his sole rival, Nikki Haley, 54% to 43%. It was a smaller margin of victory than in the caucuses of Iowa, or that he had predicted, but a clear victory nonetheless.

Yet Trump ended the evening in a bad mood, threatening Haley that “I don’t get too angry, I get even.”

Understanding this paradox is key to understanding what is going on in American politics right now.

In 2024, as in 2016, Trump started the campaign cycle a year ago with a multitude of Republican opponents. By the conclusion of the Iowa caucuses, 14 opponents had been winnowed down to one: Haley. The former governor of South Carolina and former ambassador to the United Nations under Trump, Haley was the last candidate standing between Trump and the nomination.

While former opponents had all dropped out of the race and, in most cases, endorsed Trump as the inevitable candidate, Haley has chosen to fight on. In part she is able to do this because her campaign has been garnering significant donor support from some of the wealthiest Republican donors, including the political action committee of the billionaire Koch brothers called Americans for Prosperity Action.

This donor support in turn reflects traditional Republicans’ discomfort with Trump and his form of politics. Haley in many ways is a voice for the Republican Party of the Bush family and Mitt Romney: These are small government, pro-business, pro-military Republicans that have dominated the party until the rise of Trump’s populist fury.

In New Hampshire, Haley also had an electorate not only prone to be more sympathetic to her, but where she could attract independent and cross-over voters (not just Republicans).

One of Trump’s weaknesses has been among college-educated voters, of which New Hampshire has a lot. Indeed, those with college degrees preferred Haley 56% to 41%.

Her advisers say Haley will stay in the race until at least March 5, the so-called Super Tuesday

Her New Hampshire supporters were often motivated by anti-Trump feelings. One Haley voter quoted by the Washington Post made it clear. “I’m Republican, and I’m not going to vote for the other candidate, irregardless,” said Roy Pieczarka. “No thank you, that’s not what we need. I’m not going to vote for the man whose last name begins with T.”

While Trump won most demographic groups (gender, age, ideology) in New Hampshire, it was not a crushing victory.

And Haley, in her speech after the results were announced, sounded more victorious than chastened.

“New Hampshire is first in the nation — it is not the last in the nation,” she told supporters. This race is “far from over.”

We are “going home to South Carolina,” she said. South Carolina is the next major battleground state and her home state. Her campaign is saying she will stay in the race until at least March 5, “Super Tuesday,” when 16 state primaries will be held.

In her New Hampshire speech, Haley congratulated Trump on his victory, but she made it clear she was still in the fight. And her words were not conciliatory.

“With Donald Trump you have one bout of chaos after another,” she said. “This court case, that controversy, this tweet, that senior moment. You can’t fix Joe Biden’s chaos with Republican chaos.”

Her dig at Trump’s senior moment referenced the 77-year-old Trump’s occasional confusion, as when he recently mixed-up Nikki Haley’s name with Nancy Pelosi, the former Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives.

All of this means that the campaign for the Republican nomination will continue at least until South Carolina’s vote on February 24, and possibly through Super Tuesday, on March 5. In a David and Goliath match up, the lone woman in the Republican race is the “last man standing,” and that means Trump will have to expend resources and time to defeat her. Thus, the threat to “get even.”

New Hampshire’s results showed, however, were Trump’s electoral strength lies.  Those who voted for him believe Biden stole the 2020 election, that immigrants should be deported, that abortions should be banned nationwide, and that even if their candidate was to be convicted of one of the four trials he is now facing, they judge him still be fit to be president.

Trump has also been steadily amassing endorsements from the new as well as the old Republican establishment, particularly in South Carolina. Politicians can read the tea leaves as well as anybody, and they don’t want to be late to join the Trump victory march. While pollsters are just beginning to turn to South Carolina, early polls suggested Trump had a 30% lead, but that was before it was a two-person race.

Paradox: Joe Biden’s election advisers hoped for Donald Trump’s success

Another paradox of the New Hampshire results is that the Biden campaign may wish that Trump had won more convincingly as well. Biden strategists see Trump as their greatest asset. While voters claim they are unhappy with the economy, with immigration and with interest rates, Democrats are betting the threat of Trump will unite his supporters.

Biden’s “greatest asset is that his likely opponent does more to motivate the Democratic base and some anti-Trump independents than Biden himself does,” wrote Washington political analyst Dan Balz.

The Democrats’ first official primary will be Feb. 3 in South Carolina, although Biden did easily win a write-in vote in New Hampshire. While fellow Democrats have been criticizing the Biden campaign so far, he has amassed a war chest of campaign funds said to be at least $120 million. The Biden campaign is planning to blame Trump for the restrictions on abortion and to remind voters of the chaos of January 6, 2020, when Trump supporters stormed the Capitol.

While at this point it is hard to predict who will win in November’s general election, what is predictable, however the election turns out, is that the country will still be deeply divided come Jan. 1, 2025. This is one election result that neither Americans nor America’s allies should be happy with.


Greg Erlandson