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Trump seeks to lock in nomination at New Hampshire showdown

By AFP - Jan 23,2024 - Last updated at Jan 23,2024

People arrive to vote at a polling station at the Pinkerton Academy in Derry, New Hampshire, on Tuesday (AFP photo)

MANCHESTER, United States — Donald Trump aims to steamroll his way towards the Republican presidential nomination on Tuesday in the New Hampshire primary by making short work of his only surviving opponent, former UN ambassador Nikki Haley.

In his convention-smashing mission to take revenge against President Joe Biden and win a second White House term, Trump has defied the fallout from two impeachments, four criminal trials awaiting him and lawsuits for fraud and sexual assault.

While Haley has questioned his mental fitness and warned that another Trump presidency would bring “chaos”, polls indicate her efforts will provide little more than a bump in the road in New Hampshire

“If you want a losing candidate who puts America last, vote for Nikki Haley,” Trump said in his closing arguments at a small but lively rally in the village of Laconia.

“But if you want a president who puts America first every single time, you’re going to vote for Donald J. Trump.”

New Hampshire, in the northeast United States, is seen as a more Haley-friendly electorate than any she will encounter further down the line, and pressing on into February will be a tough sell without a win or very narrow loss.

Haley — aged 52 to Trump’s 77 — sounded defiant on Tuesday as voting started, telling Fox News that “political elites are saying we all need to coalesce around him. This is not a coronation. This is a democracy.

“We are going to have a strong showing today here in New Hampshire.”

Trump had a crushing victory in the first contest in Iowa last week, with Haley a distant third, and no Republican has ever won both opening contests and not eventually gained the nomination.


‘Smoke and mirrors’ 


What was once a crowded field of 14 candidates narrowed to a one-on-one match-up on Sunday after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis dropped out, following a second place finish in Iowa. 

He and Trump were in a comparatively close race until the ex-president’s multiple court indictments began to drop in March, compelling his supporters to close ranks.

Scott Manninen, a 48-year-old production manager, told AFP at a campaign event in the village of Hollis on Monday that the legal issues would not stop him from voting for Trump.

“I think it’s a lot of smoke and mirrors — just trying to bash him and trying to get it so that people go against him,” he said. 

Trump has spent less time in New Hampshire than Haley, juggling one rally a night with court appearances out of state — and eschewing the “retail politics” of visits to diners, sports halls and high schools altogether.

But his message — a mixture of personal grievance and culture war issues that speak to his base — has delivered seemingly insurmountable polling leads in the primaries.

A Globe/Suffolk/NBC10 poll had Haley 19 points behind in New Hampshire on the eve of the election. 


Appealing to moderates 


One of Trump’s biggest gripes on the campaign has been the false claim — repeated in Laconia — that Democrats are allowed to vote in the Republican contest.

Independents can have their say, however, and Haley is seeking to energize a flagging campaign with support from the state’s moderate bloc, which outnumbers registered members of either party.

She has spent the week hammering home the message — backed by polling — that the majority of Americans do not want to see a Trump-Biden rematch in November.

New Hampshire Democrats are also voting for their standard-bearer on Tuesday, in defiance of a national party order to hold the primary at a later date.

Biden chose not to file candidate paperwork, but supporters have pledged to write his name on the ballot anyways, in the hope he can attain a symbolic victory over Minnesota congressman Dean Phillips and self-help author Marianne Williamson.


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