Haley Faces New Hampshire Challenge

As the GOP primary season is officially underway, Nikki Haley’s campaign appears to be treading water, especially following her underwhelming performance in Monday evening’s Iowa caucuses. Her third-place finish in the Hawkeye State puts her in a precarious position as the New Hampshire primary looms.

Haley’s situation contrasts sharply with President Donald Trump’s dominance, who continues to lead with a strong grassroots base, underscoring the prevailing appeal of America First policies.

Haley now sits behind Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who finished in a distant second place to the 45th president in Iowa. According to Dante Scala, a University of New Hampshire political science professor, Haley’s Iowa performance was not the “ride out of Iowa she was hoping for.”

In New Hampshire, Haley’s campaign has experienced notable shifts in messaging and strategy. Initially, Gov. Chris Sununu (R), Haley’s top surrogate in the state, expressed confidence in her victory. However, as the primary nears, there’s been a noticeable shift in rhetoric.

According to ABC News ‘ Rick Klein, Sununu recently downgraded expectations, stating that a solid second place is now the goal. This pivot raises questions about the campaign’s internal assessment of Haley’s realistic chances against President Trump’s surging campaign.

Further complicating her path is Haley’s decision to avoid debates with DeSantis. This move has drawn criticism within New Hampshire, a state known for its expectation of direct engagement from presidential hopefuls. Michael Biundo, a longtime New Hampshire GOP strategist, criticized this approach, noting that it treats New Hampshire as less significant than it is in the primary process. Julianna Bergeron, a Republican National Committee member in New Hampshire, expressed disappointment at Haley’s absence from the debates, highlighting the importance of such events in the state’s political culture.

The Emerson College Polling/WHDH New Hampshire survey, released last week, offers a glimpse of hope for Haley, showing her with 28% support among Republican primary voters in the state, a significant increase from November. Yet, she still trails Trump by a considerable margin. Jim Merrill, a GOP strategist in New Hampshire, maintains that Haley’s performance in Iowa doesn’t change her trajectory in New Hampshire. The reality of her wide polling gap with President Trump suggests otherwise.

Haley’s New Hampshire strategy is banking on a solid second-place finish to sustain her campaign in advance of the contest in her home state of South Carolina. However, Dave Carney, a veteran New Hampshire-based Republican strategist, bluntly stated that when in second place, one needs to take bolder steps, something Haley’s campaign seems reluctant to do.