The final spurt to the New Hampshire primaries began at dawn in freezing temperatures in the Newfields Country Store. Nikki Haley has no time to waste. Despite the early hour, dozens of curious people were waiting in the middle of the province to sing “Happy Birthday” to the “Palmetto Thatcher” from South Carolina. One day before her 52nd birthday, but a great assist for the candidate.
During the hot phase of the election campaign, she never misses an opportunity to make the age of Trump and Joe Biden an issue. “The majority of Americans have no interest in choosing between two 80-year-olds for president.” This is getting under the skin of the overwhelming favorite in the race for his party’s nomination. Last week he raved about how well he did on a test of his cognitive abilities. That was in 2018, when the personal physician in the White House checked his mental fitness.
Haley isn’t so sure. On Friday, Trump confused his challenger with former Democratic speaker Nancy Pelosi at a rally in front of thousands of fans of the “Make America Great Again” movement. While discussing the riot on January 6, 2021, he used the wrong name half a dozen times.
“People should make up their own minds,” says Haley. “He is insecure and knows that something is not going well.” The conservatives, who rose to prominence with the “Tea Party Movement,” are alluding to their race to catch up. In a poll in New Hampshire, she came within seven points of the ex-president.
What should help Haley is that four out of ten voters here are registered as independents. They are allowed to take part in the Republican or Democratic primaries. With the expected record voter turnout of more than 330,000 voters, they could help the Trump challenger to a surprise victory.
Haley is counting on the long tradition of New Hampshire correcting the results from Iowa. Trump won a landslide victory there last Tuesday. “We started with two percent and ended up with 20 percent,” says the candidate, satisfied with her performance. It was enough to make the New Hampshire race a head-to-head with Trump.
Not a single Republican has managed to win the first two primaries since 1976. Trump’s advisors are aware of the curse and are pulling out all the stops to make history with a double whammy in New Hampshire after finishing first in the Midwest.
The woman, whose role model is former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, does not lack self-confidence. Haley has never lost an election in her career.
Without specifically mentioning the 91-count indictments in four criminal courts, Haley raises doubts that Americans want a second Trump term. “Chaos follows him,” she warns her party about the temptation. The libertarian Koch billionaires, who have provided her with a bulging campaign fund through “Americans for Prosperity,” also see it that way. Haley used this to finance a three-minute commercial that aired on a loop the day before the primaries.
“Wake-up call for Republicans”
The conservative known as “Palmetto-Thatcher” does not represent any moderate or liberal positions. But it does not question democracy or the fundamental pillars of American security policy. That’s why traditional Republicans and independents see their election in New Hampshire as the last chance to stop Trump from marching through to the nomination. Haley himself speaks of “a wake-up call for Republicans.” If he is heard on Tuesday, she should gain enough momentum for a showdown in her home state of South Carolina (February 24). Trump also knows this and has no interest in it. He wanted a big victory, by a big margin, he urged his followers to fight. “That brings the matter to an end.”
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