Shortly after losing the New Hampshire Republican primary to Donald Trump, Nikki Haley, the sole survivor of the effort to topple the formidable frontrunner, said “New Hampshire is the first in the nation, not the last in the nation.”
Sure, New Hampshire is proudly the first primary election in the 2024 calendar (for at least the Republican primary this year), and the race for the nomination will technically continue; but, for most, New Hampshire represented the last meaningful opportunity for cracks to appear in the path to Trump’s so-called ‘inevitable’ nomination. And at this stage, Trump’s path appears unblemished.
In any ordinary primary, it would appear Haley had a relatively good night. She narrowed the 32-point margin of Trump's Iowa caucus victory over her last week; and she made inroads among first-time GOP voters (65 per cent of whom voted Haley over Trump), those whose top concerns are abortion rights and foreign policy, and self-identified ideologically moderate Republicans, according to NBC exit polls.
Ultimately though, the primary race is about momentum and while Haley may have caught wind in her sails with these minor groups of the GOP electorate, Trump is driving a speedboat. No Republican has ever won two out of three of the early primary states and lost the nomination. The former president is also the first Republican in an open, competitive primary to win both Iowa and New Hampshire in over 50 years.
If Haley could not win in New Hampshire, where Haley-favouring GOP minorities are disproportionally well represented, many believe she cannot win anywhere. Sparing a miracle for Haley, the race to the nomination appears all but over – New Hampshire may well be the first and last in the nation.
For more on the 2024 US presidential election, read the USSC's explainer Guide to the 2024 presidential election: from primaries to president by Research Associates Ava Kalinauskas and Samuel Garrett
This article was first published in the weekly 46th newsletter. Subscribe to the 46th here.