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Trump holds wide lead over Nikki Haley in New Hampshire, polls show

Two polls released on eve of state’s primary put ex-president at 19 points and 18 points ahead of his former UN ambassador

Martin Pengelly in Washington, The Guardian

Mon 22 Jan 2024 10.12 EST

The ignominious end of Ron DeSantis’s presidential campaign is unlikely to boost Donald Trump’s last challenger, Nikki Haley, to the Republican nomination, according to two New Hampshire polls released on the eve of the primary in the north-eastern state.

DeSantis also endured a round of scathing critiques of his campaign which started off being seen as a major source of opposition to Trump. But his White House bid never fully took off and fizzled into failure and a major blow to the rightwing Florida governor’s political reputation.

In a poll released on Sunday, the day the hard-right Florida governor contradicted his own Super Pac, Never Back Down, and backed down, NBC News, the Boston Globe and Suffolk University put Trump 19 points clear of Haley, at 55% to 36% support.

Ending his campaign, DeSantis looked past months of personal attacks from Trump to offer the twice-impeached, 91-times criminally charged former president – whose lie about a stolen 2020 election DeSantis has disowned – his endorsement to face Joe Biden.

On Monday, the Washington Post and Monmouth University put Trump at 52% support in New Hampshire, to 34% for Haley.

That represented a near-doubling of support for the former South Carolina governor and UN ambassador since November. But, the Post said, that was primarily a result of the withdrawal of Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor who campaigned as an anti-Trump candidate.

DeSantis had 8% support in the Post-Monmouth poll, which was carried out before he ended his campaign.

“If DeSantis’s supporters in the poll are allocated based on their second choice,” the Post said, “Trump’s support rises by four points while Haley’s increases by two.”

On Sunday, Haley staged a rally in New Hampshire with Judy Sheindlin, better known to millions of Americans as Judge Judy, a former Manhattan family court judge made famous by a small claims, arbitration-based TV show.

“What a crowd, Exeter!” she said. “The energy on the ground is electric, and it’s clear Granite Staters are ready to make a difference on Tuesday! An extra special thanks to America’s favorite judge, Judge Judy Sheindlin, for joining us! She gets it: this country needs no drama, no chaos, no nonsense – just results!”

But despite such determined boosterism, polling results undeniably show Haley well adrift of Trump in New Hampshire and even further behind in South Carolina, her home state which next month will be the third to vote.

According to the polling site, Trump leads Haley by 61% to 25% in the southern state.

Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said: “I wish I had a dollar for every Republican who’s told me over the last three years, ‘We’ve learned our lesson. No way will Trump be our nominee again.’”

Speaking to CNN, Sabato added: “If [Haley] loses on Tuesday, it almost certainly marks the end of her run. She may continue through her home state of South Carolina though I think she’d be hesitant to do it because she wouldn’t want to lose her home state. That’s really difficult to explain to people.

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“But for all practical purposes, once DeSantis left and once the other candidates were knocked out of the race, it was Trump’s to lose and Trump has to lose significantly and he’s not going to lose it.”

DeSantis exited the race with a statement containing both a Churchill quote it turned out Churchill never said and his endorsement of Trump.

Sabato was asked about DeSantis’s decision to back Trump after, only last week, attacking Republicans he said had chosen to “kiss the ring” and endorse the former president.

“I guess he saw some good examples of ring kissing and decided to imitate it,” Sabato said.

“Look, who knows what was going through his mind other than the fact that he certainly wants to run the next time. Now, whether he’ll be credible as a candidate after this disastrous run? Remember, he was supposed to be Trump’s main challenger and most of the establishment in the Republican party was betting on him. And his campaign crashed and burned.

“This was really a disgraceful enterprise in so many different ways. But in [DeSantis’s] mind, at least right now, as he’s coming to terms with the the demise of his dream, he’s thinking about running in 2028. Well, being associated with Nikki Haley is not going to help you, because this party has already become the Donald Trump party or the Maga party and it will be in all likelihood even more so as the years go on.”

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