Can Haley beat Trump? A New Hampshire VFW hall spotlights her stark enthusiasm gap

Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley takes the stage at a Get Out the Vote marketing campaign rally forward of the New Hampshire major election in Exeter, New Hampshire, U.S., January 21, 2024.

Brian Snyder | Reuters

FRANKLIN, N.H. — Nikki Haley is throwing tougher punches, internet hosting extra occasions and showing alongside the favored Republican governor, John Sununu. But with simply hours left earlier than 2024’s first Republican presidential primary, Haley is falling behind on an important metric: enthusiasm.

“Every single factor that Donald Trump has stated, or placed on TV, has been a lie,” Haley stated at a get out the vote occasion right here Monday morning at a small VFW hall.

The close-packed crowd of between 100-200 folks listened intently and nodded on the proper moments. But they supplied few of the boisterous cheers and prolonged applause which have come to outline Trump’s carnival-like stay occasions.

On the opposite, a number of of Haley’s applause traces had been met with silence.

This might have been be on account of the truth that it was early within the morning on a freezing chilly Monday, in a state that’s saturated each 4 years with politicians making guarantees. But it might even have been as a result of not everybody within the crowd was planning to vote for Haley.

As the previous South Carolina governor races to make up for Trump’s lead within the polls, specialists stated higher-than-expected turnout on Tuesday will likely be essential. The downside for Haley is that enthusiasm drives turnout, and as Haley’s morning in Franklin illustrated, attendance isn’t the identical as enthusiasm.

Bonnie, a retired trainer from Laconia, New Hampshire, stated she supported Haley “so far as she will go.” But that didn’t prolong so far as voting for Haley within the Republican major, stated Bonnie, who declined to present her final identify.

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A registered Democrat, Bonnie stated she missed the deadline to change her registration over to the impartial column. Registered Democrats are barred from voting within the GOP major, however undeclared or impartial voters are usually not.

As for why she got here out that morning, Bonnie replied, “I need to see a candidate,” earlier than including that Haley is “the one likelihood we’ve got of taking votes away” from Trump.

“I taught center faculty. That’s why I acknowledge a center faculty bully,” Bonnie stated of Trump.

Another attendee, a self-described “political vacationer from New Jersey” who declined to present his identify, stated he discovered Haley certified, however famous, “She’s preventing the grip that Trump has, having taken over the get together.”

The capability crowd included a number of vocal Haley supporters. But the previous U.N. ambassador is working out of time to maintain tempo with Trump, who simply hours earlier than, had packed a 700-seat opera home in Rochester.

“I’m assured she’ll do properly sufficient to proceed” with her marketing campaign, stated Thornton resident Pete Johnson, 69, after the VFW occasion. He added that he was not voting in opposition to Trump, however “100% for Haley.”

At the Sunday evening Trump occasion, a whole bunch of people that had waited in line for hours, in 19-degree climate, couldn’t get inside as a result of the occasion was over capability. Dozens of those folks caught round by the doorway, within the chilly, even after being denied entry.

Outside the venue, the lengthy line of Trump supporters had been distracted from the bitter chilly by a pop-up market that usually accompanies his rallies.

An array of tables had been stationed close to the road, and distributors wheeled carts up and down the road. The sellers hawked scarves, winter hats, sweatshirts, baseball caps, stickers and posters — all emblazoned with Trump’s identify or a MAGA slogan. Below is a pattern of the stickers on the market in Rochester.

Stickers on show at a Trump GOP Primary rally in Rochester, N.H.

Kevin Breuninger | CNBC

Meanwhile, vans carrying massive screens and audio system periodically drove by, blaring a video made by the anti-Trump nonprofit Lincoln Project, that described the previous president as a dictator. The vans drew profane jeers and hand gestures from these in line.

Polls present Trump holding a large lead, particularly amongst registered Republicans. Still, Haley is working a much more aggressive race within the Granite State than she did in Iowa, thanks largely to New Hampshire’s excessive proportion of undeclared voters.

After profitable final week’s Iowa caucuses in a landslide, Trump is trying to torpedo Haley and successfully wrap up the remainder of the first race by Tuesday evening.

Haley got here third in Iowa, stunting her momentum and muddying her message, that the first was a two-person race between her and Trump. On Sunday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the second-place finisher within the caucuses, abruptly dropped out and endorsed Trump.

In current days, Trump has additionally gained endorsements from a number of of Haley’s residence state lawmakers: South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott and Rep. Nancy Mace, who represents Haley in Congress.

Despite the setbacks and the lengthy odds, Haley’s formidable power of will was on full show Monday morning, as she vowed to remain within the race no matter Tuesday’s end result.

“If you be part of with me,” she instructed the VFW crowd, “I promise you: Our finest days are but to return.”

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