CONCORD, NH — With supporters whistling, shouting and bouncing campaign signs around a hotel ballroom, Nikki Haley wasn’t about to let this be her last stand.
Even as pundits, the media and now voters in another state pushed him toward the exits just hours ago, he was too far gone to let it all go overnight.
On Tuesday night, fresh off a loss after a third-place finish in Iowa, Haley said she was fighting hard to throw in the towel despite Donald Trump’s attempts to look into the general election race.
On his night took second place In New Hampshire, Haley, a former ambassador to the United Nations and governor of South Carolina, vowed to push back home, insisting she still has a way to go.
“I know everyone. New Hampshire is first in the nation. It’s not the last one,” Haley said to applause. “This race is far from over. There are dozens of states to go, and next up is my sweet home state of South Carolina.”
Haley made the argument that her path to defeating Trump was an increasing one — going from polling at 2% early in the race nearly a year ago to being the last person standing against Trump and winning about half the popular vote. New Hampshire. He also took the opportunity to throw a bombshell at Trump and his election.
“With Donald Trump, the Republicans lost almost every competitive election. We lost the Senate. We lost the house. We lost the White House. We lost in 2018. We lost in 2020, and we lost in 2022,” Haley said. “The worst kept secret in politics is how much the Democrats want to fight against Donald Trump. They know that Trump is the only Republican in the country that Joe Biden can beat.”
Long before the results were in, Haley insisted the world had every expectation of progress. Allies say the campaign has been running frugally since last year and still has gas in the tank.
As of Tuesday night, he had planned fundraising trips to New York, California and Florida. One outside super PAC, Americans for Prosperity — which backs Haley on the ground — said it doesn’t need to see an outright victory in New Hampshire to keep moving forward; More important was the nomination of a Republican electable enough to defeat Biden and get GOP candidates running in low-level races on the ballot.
“Other than him having a really poor showing, we would have carried on. We’re already laying the groundwork in many of the Super Tuesday states, not just in South Carolina,” said Drew Klein, senior counsel for AFP Action. he said before the results. “We now plan to move to South Carolina and continue our efforts in that state and continue to move forward.”
Haley was still planning to hold a rally in Charleston on Wednesday, where she had already begun spending on a previously announced $4 million ad buy.
“Nikki Haley has shocked the world before. He has done that time and time again in South Carolina politics,” said South Carolina Republican Party Executive Director Alex Stroman. A strong Haley showing, he said, “sets this up for a 32-day garbage assault on the state. South Carolina is not New Hampshire and Iowa; it’s really a microcosm of what the Republican Party looks like.”
And he — as well as the campaign itself — noted that the state has open primaries, meaning Democrats can vote in the election. Trump criticized Haley on the eve of New Hampshire by accusing her It draws Democratic support in the GOP primary.
Still, Haley’s supporters have stuck with her, saying she has shown she can beat the odds in a crowded race against others who are more polled and better funded.
“His phrase is ‘slow and steady wins the race.’ We’re going to continue to add voters in every primary, we’re going to continue to add donors every day,” said Bill Strong, a donor and member of Haley’s campaign executive committee.
Haley is still in an uphill battle, finishing third in Iowa, tied for second between the two candidates.
Trump has already dropped support for a slate of Republicans in his home state, including Gov. Henry McMaster and onetime GOP presidential contender Sen. Tim Scott. Although recent polls are few and far between, those that are available paint a tough battle for Haley. In November, Trump led Haley 48% to 19% Winthrop University survey. Meanwhile, it released a poll that polled Trump almost 40 points difference in the state.
Bill O’Brien, a member of the New Hampshire Republican National Committee and an abstention in the primary, said before the results came in that Haley would have a hard time continuing unless she won one of the top two states.
“I have a hard time seeing a clear path for him to run,” O’Brien said, adding that he doesn’t think any other state “would be that different.”
The Haley campaign argued that it had a way because the Super Tuesday states are more like New Hampshire than Iowa. O’Brien said it’s an uphill battle if he doesn’t win New Hampshire.
On Tuesday night, Trump’s allies attempted to move toward a general election position and blasted Haley for trying to move on.
“Nikki Haley says she’s running to stop Harris-Biden from re-election. However, there is no path to victory, and every day he stays in this race is another day he gives to the Harris-Biden campaign,” Taylor Budovich, CEO of Make America Great Again Inc., said in a statement. “It’s time to unite, it’s time to fight back against the Democrats, and for Nikki Haley: it’s time to quit.”
A senior Trump campaign official told NBC News that Haley will face a higher level of aggression if she stays in the race. The official said it would focus on his record as governor and how those who know him best like him least — but not on personal attacks like the birther issue (which Trump is already on the agenda).
Supporters of Haley, led by Gov. Chris Sunu, a key surrogate, spent the final days of the race in New Hampshire, blaming the media and the political elite for the cause, and trying to respond to repeated suggestions that Haley must win New Hampshire to advance. move the goalposts for any measure of success.
“About 50 percent of Republican primary voters want an alternative to Donald Trump. 75 percent of the country wants an alternative to Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Even if members of Congress, the press, and many weak-kneed presidential candidates give up and capitulate, we’re not going anywhere,” Haley campaign manager Betsy Ankney said in a memo released Tuesday morning.
“Then it’s Super Tuesday on March 5, where there is significant fertile ground for Nikki, despite what the media has written. 11 of the 16 Super Tuesday states have open or semi-open primaries. About two-thirds of the 874 delegates available on Super Tuesday are in states with open or semi-open primaries,” he said.
The traditional storyline was that New Hampshire’s large number of independent voters created the ideal conditions for a Haley victory, as those seeking an alternative to Trump would rally around her. But according to Trump follow requestsIt shut down the Republican base.
NBC News exit polls on Tuesday showed that there is healthy participation of independents.
Haley though it rose slowly at first In the events of New Hampshire immediately following the Iowa results, he quickly changed course and circled the state, with Sunu stumbling hard for him along the way. He claimed he would bring a generational change to the Republican Party, which must leave behind the “chaos” of the Trump years. He also banked on his election by citing polls showing he could soundly beat Biden in the general election, the same polls that showed a Biden-Trump race would be a toss-up.
A day after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis dropped out of the race on Monday, the governor’s brother, former U.S. Sen. John Sun, scoffed at the suggestion that Haley would run under ideal circumstances.
“It’s a two-man race in just 18 hours. You are talking ridiculous,” he said in an interview. “There are a lot of [Super Tuesday] states where it already has great name ID and great ground game. He largely accomplished the goals that came out of the campaign a year ago, building momentum in Iowa, doing well in New Hampshire and going into South Carolina.