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Haley’s last stand

Nikki Haley, former U.N. Ambassador and Republican presidential candidate, delivers remarks during a campaign event in Derry, New Hampshire on Jan. 21, 2023.

Nikki Haley, former U.N. Ambassador and Republican presidential candidate, delivers remarks during a campaign event in Derry, New Hampshire on Jan. 21, 2023.

Nathan Howard/Sipa USA via Reuters Connect

Is a Donald Trump triumph inevitable? After the former president’s crushing victory in the Iowa caucuses, where he obtained a never-before-seen 51% of the vote, all eyes turn to Tuesday’s contest in New Hampshire.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended his campaign on Sunday and endorsed the former president. The man who emulated Trump right down to his hand gestures while on the political rise was at one point considered the leading candidate to take him on, coming within 15 percentage points of Trump in polls from March, 2023. But he wound up 30 points behind in Iowa — and his choice to endorse Trump shows just how firmly the former president controls the Republican Party.

So now, it’s a do-or-die moment for former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, the last contender with even the slightest chance of rivaling the former president. The former UN ambassador placed third against Trump in Iowa and must perform well on Tuesday – she probably needs to win outright – if her campaign is to continue.

The Granite State offers Haley her best chance. A significant number of New Hampshire Republicans are staunchly anti-Trump. The state is also famous for its political independence and open primary system. Haley’s strategy hinges on wooing moderate Republicans and mobilizing independent voters disillusioned with Trump's polarizing politics.

Despite this, Haley has a fight on her hands. Trump took the state with 35% of the vote in 2016, and the most recent poll shows him leading Haley by eleven points. At a recent rally in Concord, NH, Trump trotted out an endorsement from South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott. And Trump has shamelessly played the race card: In a post on his Truth Social account, Trump repeatedly referred to Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, as “Nimbra.” (She was born Nimarata Nikki Randhawa but has always used her middle name.)

The anti-Trump forces know what’s at stake. In the words of Gordon J. Humphrey, a former New Hampshire senator now campaigning against Trump. “If he wins here, Trump will be unstoppable.”

And the world is watching

A Trump triumph wouldn’t just upset the apple cart in America. It would mean challenges for many world leaders – including Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

A bipartisan deal in the Senate that would get more aid to Ukraine in exchange for tougher immigration measures desired by the GOP looks like it may stall after Trump expressed his opposition to it on social media. It’s the kind of curveball that should make foreign leaders wonder which of their key interests with the United States might be held hostage to domestic political priorities should Trump win again in November.

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