Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley has mounted a strong effort to steal the New Hampshire Republican primary by packing it with crossover Democrats who claim to be independents.
Her New Hampshire campaign is based on attracting non-Republicans to vote against Donald Trump in the Republican primary. And it’s working.
(Unlike most states, New Hampshire permits independents to vote in the Republican primary.)
The New York Times exit poll from the 2016 New Hampshire Republican primary shows that 35% of the votes were cast by independent voters. But current polls suggest that, with no contest on the Democratic side of the primary, independents are flocking into the Republican primary, now casting 45% of the likely vote.
That’s significant since both CNN and USA Today polls have Haley beating Trump among New Hampshire independents. (CNN has Haley 43%, Christie 23%, and Trump 17% among N.H. independents. USA Today also has Haley winning among N.H. independents but by a lesser margin: Haley 36%, Trump 26%, Christie 23%).
Were Haley’s support among independents a manifestation of broad-based electoral appeal to those voters who are not in either party, it would be a show of strength worth considering. But it isn’t. Rather, it’s the result of a stop-Trump campaign largely waged by Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents. Their flirtation with Haley is entirely opportunistic — they just want to defeat Trump and afterward, they will go back to voting for Biden.
Independents cannot vote in the Iowa caucuses, so Trump’s lead in the first-in-the-nation contest remains intact. The former president is on track, according to realclearpolitics.com, to win Iowa getting 52% of the votes while Haley and Ron DeSantis are tied at 16% each.
But in New Hampshire, Haley’s plan to hijack the Republican primary shows some signs of working. Trump still leads in New Hampshire but by a smaller margin of Trump 43%, Haley 29%, and Christie 12%.
It remains to be seen if Haley’s New Hampshire vote will stand up against a likely landslide Trump win in Iowa. Normally, it wouldn’t. New Hampshire Republicans are very sophisticated, having led off the primary process for decades. Usually, a bad showing in Iowa will doom a candidate in New Hampshire.
But Haley’s possible support among independents is simply an attempt to stop Trump. They won’t be deterred if their candidate falters in Iowa. They are voting against Trump and don’t much care who actually wins.
The stop-Trump movement in New Hampshire is as deadly serious as the attempt to knock Trump off the ballot in Maine and Colorado. Democrats are apoplectic about a possible second term for Trump and they are perfectly willing to wear a Republican disguise to be able to cross over and vote against Trump.
To counter Haley’s hijack attempt, New Hampshire Republicans — real Republicans, not Democrats dressed up as independents — are voting overwhelmingly for Trump. The CNN poll has him beating Haley among New Hampshire Republicans by 58-21 while USA Today puts his margin at 62-19.
It sounds absurd to fight to keep the Republican primary Republican, but that is the battle we must wage to frustrate the latest stop-Trump drive.
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