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Chaos, participation, independence: three elements that risk influencing the Republican vote in New Hampshire

Photo: Chip Somodevilla Getty Images/Agence France-Presse First-time voter Buddy Eddy fills out his ballot for the New Hampshire presidential primary election, January 23, 2024, in Concord, New Hampshire.

Fabien Deglise In Concord, New Hampshire


  • United States

The election is local, but the result will have national and even international repercussions. On Tuesday, Republican and independent voters in New Hampshire are called to the polls to decide who will be the Republican Party's nominee for the 2024 presidential election.

After an overwhelming victory in the Iowa caucuses, the first stage of this nomination race, Donald Trump is approaching the finish line as a big favorite, especially since the candidate hunting the most on his land, the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, has just withdrawn on Sunday while giving him his support. But New Hampshire remains a sometimes surprising political environment, which could offer a victory to former United States Ambassador Nikki Haley and change the trajectory of this inauguration. What to watch out for on this crucial election day ?

The effect of independents and moderates

“Live Free or Die.” New Hampshire's motto isn't just written on license plates. It also colors the behavior of voters who can sometimes be surprising because of their great independence and the moderation of their conservatism.

“The big difference between New Hampshire and many other states is that evangelical voters make up a relatively small percentage of the electorate compared to the state's high percentage of well-educated and affluent voters who have shown a marked disgust for Trump, summarizes Linda Fowler, professor of political science at Dartmouth College, in an interview. Many independents are also women who often vote for Republicans, but who remain very affected by the loss of their constitutional rights regarding abortion. Horror stories about women who suffered miscarriages or were unable to obtain adequate health care keep this concern high in New Hampshire. »

The unpredictable nature of these independents can create surprises, as it did in 2008 for John McCain. He arrived in the Granite State after a crushing defeat in Iowa where the Republican was left in the dust, in fourth place, far behind Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas. New Hampshire warded off fate by granting him a first place, ahead of Mitt Romney, which allowed him to get his campaign back on track, up to the nomination, a few primaries and caucuses later. His race, however, stopped on the threshold of the White House, the door of which was opened by Barack Obama that year.

“New Hampshire offers the best opportunity for Nikki Haley to slow down Donald Trump, who is well on his way to the nomination,” explains New Hampshire Republican strategist Jim Merrill. However, even if she wins the state, the path beyond will pose a significant challenge for her.”

In 2016, Donald Trump won New Hampshire with 35% of the Republican vote, leaving the balance to less radical candidates. That year, the state was with Vermont, the one where the vote in favor of the Republican establishment, represented by Nikki Haley, or the independent vote was the strongest, during the Republican primaries.

Moreover, it is in New Hampshire that the ex-diplomat has the smallest gap in voting intentions, facing Donald Trump: 13 points, according to the most recent CNN poll led by the University of New Hampshire, compared to 30 in South Carolina, 52 in Florida or 62 in Tennessee.

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The effect of the participation rate

Last week, New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan predicted record turnout in the Republican Party primaries, announcing that more than 322,000 people were expected to go to the polls on Tuesday. This would be a record, surpassing the previous one set in 2016 with a participation of 282,979 voters.

“The higher the turnout, the better the chances for Nikki Haley,” said political scientist Dante Scala of the University of New Hampshire. The trend is generally driven by moderates and independents. “But the lower the turnout, the higher the percentage of conservative Republicans, an electorate rather comfortable with Donald Trump,” he adds.

It is undoubtedly this low participation rate which favored Trump's victory in Iowa, as revealed by several analyzes which followed this election in the middle of January.

As of December 28, there were approximately 873,000 registered voters in New Hampshire. Republicans make up 31 percent of them, compared to 30 percent for Democrats and 39 percent for independents. Democrats are not allowed to vote in the Republican primary.

“Among the independents who announced they were going to vote in the primary, most indicated they wanted to vote for Nikki Haley,” says Andrew Smith, director of the Opinion Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. But the problem for her is that more than half of registered Republicans also say they will vote for Trump. »

“There is still a lot of uncertainty about this participation,” summarizes Linda Fowler. We do not yet know to what extent Donald Trump's supporters will actually move, they who are subjected daily to media which present the nomination of their candidate as something inevitable. » This feeling of certainty can encourage voters to stay at home, since they are convinced that the verdict has already been reached. “It is also difficult to say to what extent independents are mobilized, but also what will be the effect on the vote of the support given to Nikki Haley by Governor Chris Sununu”, a strong critical voice of the ex-president and a politician which enjoys a high level of approval among the electorate, she adds.

Anecdotally, residents of the small upstate town of Dixville Notch, who historically vote first at midnight on Election Day, have experienced a rate of 100% turnout this January 23 and gave 100% of their votes to the alternative to Donald Trump, Nikki Haley. There were six of them to vote.

The effect of chaos

You only need to take just a few steps in the snowy streets of Concord, Manchester, Portsmouth or Rochester to meet a Republican ready to claim that Donald Trump was the victim, in 2020, of electoral fraud which cost him the White House , and even pledging to vote for the ex-president in 2024, even if he were to be convicted of a crime and sent to prison. The evidence accumulated against the ex-president is nevertheless serious. The accusations of electoral fraud that he continues to make have never been proven, despite dozens of investigations, including several carried out by the populist's allies in states dominated by Republicans.

« You realize: voting for a condemned candidate, in the context of an American election, left Kathy Holland, a volunteer for Nikki Haley's campaign, looking dismayed a few days ago met in Manchester. It’s a frightening prospect. »

“There is very little that could cause Trump supporters to turn to another candidate,” summarizes Dean Lacy, a public opinion specialist at Dartmouth College. They will support him regardless of the criminal charges brought against him and the verdicts that may result. »

Sign of concern: A Marist College poll found last week that two-thirds of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in New Hampshire say Trump should be given immunity from prosecution criminal charges for actions he took while president.

Recall that the ex-president is to date exposed to 91 charges in four separate cases, including one for having led an insurrection against the Capitol in 2021 to prevent the certification of the vote in favor of Joe Biden and another for having attempted to overturn the result of the Democratic majority vote in Georgia.

In Keene on Saturday, Nikki Haley also accused him of maintaining dangerous relationships with several enemies of the United States. “Donald Trump must stop praising all these dictators,” she said, citing Xi Jinping, Kim Jung-un, Vladimir Putin… It’s not good for us. Look, he praised Xi a dozen times after China gave us COVID. He told her that he was with her when China took Hong Kong. He talks to Kim Jung-un and the love letters he sent her. It's scary. Is this where America is ? »

Accusations that sound like noise to the ears of his supporters, who do not believe that any of this is true or even happened. “Rationalization is a powerful emotion,” summarizes political scientist Andrew Smith.

It could also be fatal, adds Matthew Bartlett, a Republican political organizer in New Hampshire. “If Trump wins in New Hampshire, and with a clear victory, then this race could be over, because it will be virtually impossible for other candidates to beat him in any other state.”

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116