Numerous individuals donning Nikki Haley pins and t-shirts gathered in distinctive red booths at the renowned Red Arrow Diner in Concord on a chilly, snowy day.

They were anticipating a surprise visit from Ms. Haley, who had just had a dismal night and finished third in the Iowa caucuses behind Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the overwhelming winner, former President Donald Trump.

The former UN ambassador had a chance to pick up some much-needed momentum in Iowa, but Mr. Trump’s resounding win solidified his lead in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

However, Ms. Haley insisted she was still in the race just a day later.

She informed the Concord diner’s patrons, “There are only two serious candidates.” “It’s about the difference between Trump and me.”

The next test for the candidates is the New Hampshire primary on January 23, which is the second in a series of state-by-state elections. Analysts speculated that this could be Ms. Haley’s best and possibly last chance to challenge Mr. Trump.

New Hampshire is where Ms. Haley has spent a lot of time campaigning, and current polling there indicates that the race is somewhat tighter. In addition, she has received significant support from numerous local authorities as well as Republican governor of New Hampshire, Chris Sununu.

On the other hand, Mr. DeSantis concentrated his efforts on Iowa, running for office in all 99 counties and allocating millions for advertising. In New Hampshire, his polling numbers are in the single digits.

Politics professor Sean Westwood of Dartmouth College observed, “He has a robotic personality that does not resonate with voters.” “In a world where almost all of his attention was focused on Iowa, he still barely managed to win over Haley.”

However, Ms. Haley has a powerful opponent in the former president, who continues to command the Republican Party nationally and has a devoted following in the state’s rural areas.

Mr. Westwood pointed out that “Trump commands the Republican Party.” “In Iowa, he clearly outperformed DeSantis and Haley. and in New Hampshire, he’ll follow suit.”

Nevertheless, Ms. Haley is aiming to win unexpectedly the following week. Additionally, observers indicated that she might be able to narrow Mr. Trump’s lead thanks to the state’s distinct voter base.

Similar to Iowa, New Hampshire is more rural and whiter than the typical US state. But the New England swing state, with its Democratic congressional delegation and Republican governor, is unique in that over 40% of its voters are independents. If these more centrist voters so desire, they are free to cast ballots in the Republican primary.

“Historically, we have looked at Iowa a lot and have done the opposite of what they decide to do,” Republican strategist Matthew Bartlett in the state said. “If everyone anticipates us to zig, then occasionally we will zag. There’s consistently  a New Hampshire surprise.”

For instance, in 2016, Mr. Trump prevailed in the Republican primary in New Hampshire following his defeat in the Iowa caucuses, which contributed to his eventual victory as the Republican nominee. That demonstrated that Mr. Trump can win over Granite State voters (despite the fact that he lost the state in the general elections in both 2016 and 2020).

Concord resident Richard Terrell, 75, expressed confidence that Mr. Trump will win the state’s primary due to his track record as president.

“He’s already proved himself through one administration,” he stated. “I like everything he did.”

Before the former president appeared in Atkinson, New Hampshire, on Tuesday night, large crowds of his fans braved the cold and snow, waiting in line for hours.

After attending his civil defamation damages trial in a Manhattan courthouse, this was his second stop of the day. Writer E Jean Carroll, who claims he raped her decades ago, is suing him.

After being introduced by Vivek Ramaswamy, who withdrew from the race the day before, at the New Hampshire event, Mr. Trump wasted no time in criticizing Ms. Haley.

“We’re still leading her by a lot,” he stated. “She’s not a particular great candidate.”

However, Ms. Haley won over New Hampshire Senator Bill Gannon on Tuesday morning in the Red Arrow Concord café.

While having breakfast with state representative Mike Moffett, the two Republicans expressed their admiration for her expertise in global politics and her familiarity with topics pertaining to New Hampshire.

“She’s someone my kids could look up to,” Mr. Gannon stated. “She is the entire bundle. She is thinking ahead to the future.”

Nevertheless, Ms. Haley will also need to win over a few of those independent votes if she is to surpass Mr. Trump in New Hampshire.

Ginny, an independent from Manchester who requested anonymity due to privacy concerns, stated that although she had previously supported Republican politicians, she was not fond of any of the contenders for president in 2024, including Ms. Haley.

She declared, “The [current] Republican platform is a disaster for democracy,” and she expressed her worries about Mr. Trump, who is being investigated on numerous counts of sexual assault in both federal and state courts.

Ron DeSantis is still very much in the race, but Ms. Haley wants to present it as a contest between herself and the outgoing president.

“Trump is the one I want,” Ms. Haley declared to Concord reporters, adding that she would only go to the state’s Republican debate this week if Mr. Trump also showed up. He hasn’t taken part in a debate before, so he wouldn’t stand to gain anything by facing Ms. Haley right now.

Ms. Haley has a limited amount of time to present her case. Furthermore, experts stated that there won’t be much chance for her in her home state of South Carolina’s upcoming primary, where polls show that Mr. Trump is leading, should she lose in New Hampshire.

“If Donald Trump blows it out in Iowa and blows it out in New Hampshire, it is very difficult to see him losing any other contests moving forward,” said Bartlett. “Then the question is: do people stay in this race and why?”

“The starting line could be the finish line here,” he stated.

As she shook hands and gave hugs to voters at the Concord cafe on Tuesday, Ms. Haley was conscious of the passing of time.

Now that everyone is watching us, she said. “Everyone’s looking at New Hampshire.”


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