Nikki Haley moves to second place in New Hampshire behind Donald Trump

Today’s Suffolk University/Boston Globe/USA TODAY poll (yes, that’s a mouthful) will be touted by Nikki Haley’s campaign. She’s rocketed into second place with the support of 19% of likely New Hampshire Republican Primary voters – the highest she’s polled in the Granite State so far. Meanwhile, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is a distant third at 10%, and all other non-Trump candidates are polling in the single digits.

This likely means more money, credibility and interviews will find their way to Haley. More importantly, a case will be made for others to drop out now and back Haley’s challenge to former president Donald Trump.

But the larger question is, based on this poll today, can Haley or any other candidate beat Trump in New Hampshire? Here are three scenarios.

Scenario #1 – All the candidates dropping out and endorsing Haley doesn’t get her all of the way

Consider this ∾ even if every other Republican candidate dropped out and endorsed Haley, Trump would still win the New Hampshire Republican primary. Using likely voters’ second choice preferences as a guide, some supporters of the other candidates would opt for Trump over Haley. For example, If DeSantis endorsed Haley, the polling shows that Trump would win 29% of his supporters. Trump would still win 40% of Ramaswamy’s voters. Add in second choice votes from all the other major candidates – even if they all endorsed Haley – and Trump sits above 55%. So, why would other candidates drop out?

Scenario #2 – Trump loses support in New Hampshire and Haley benefitsNot really.

There is the argument that if Trump voters soured, the alternative (currently Haley) would benefit directly. But the poll tells us that it is DeSantis, not Haley, who would benefit more from a Trump decline. Just 11% of Trump voters would rotate to Nikki Haley, while 35% would vote for Ron DeSantis. That 3-1 advantage for DeSantis among Trump voters would put him back in play in New Hampshire. This creates a unique scenario: one of the other candidates like Christie loses support and Haley goes higher, Trump loses support and DeSantis goes higher, another candidate like Scott loses support and Haley goes higher, etc. Each time Haley and DeSantis bump up a little bit, back and forth, but right now it’s not enough to catch Trump.

Scenario #3 – Democrats and Independents flood the Republican primary to knock out Trump 

Trying to change the party proportions on election day seems highly improbable, though not impossible. Democrats could jump into the New Hampshire Republican Primary and cause havoc to the Trump campaign. Normally, the Republican presidential primary electorate is made up of about 60%-65% registered Republicans and 30%-35% registered independents, if exit polls are any guide.

But what happens if 40% of the turnout is Republicans, 40% Independents, and 20% registered Democrats who switch to vote as Independents? Would this strategic voting be election rigging? Absolutely not. It’s voting within New Hampshire’s rules to choose a Republican nominee. The problem for these devious Democrats?

The deadline to change registration from Democrat to Independent is in two days, by Oct. 6. Otherwise, they will only be able to vote in a Democratic primary next January.

Aside from these scenarios, the poll indicates something more powerful: 76% of Trump voters say the charges against Trump are politically motivated, and that he didn’t do anything illegal. For these voters, Trump is in a legendary class of leaders who did little wrong and were still investigated, arrested and charged for political motivations – a group that includes Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesus Christ.

Speaker ousted:Kevin McCarthy ousted as House speaker, says he will not run for leadership role again

This kind of undying loyalty to Trump depicts a divide within the Republican Party.

More:New Hampshire debate watchers have a message for Chris Christie: Get off the island – Poll

In the table below we listed responses to questions with one column showing how Trump voters (n=247) responded and one column of how Haley, DeSantis, Christie, Ramaswamy, Scott voters (n=215) – labeled “Major Others Combined” – answered the same question.

Suffolk University/Boston Globe/USA TODAY poll

Suffolk University/Boston Globe/USA TODAY poll

Trump voters account for much higher percentages than the average Republican Primary voter on key issues, according to the poll.

The tight fisted and inflexible stances on major issues have given Trump’s Republican challengers no other option but to reflect and embrace these positions in an effort to win over the all-important Trump voters at candidate forums and interviews.

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