If Haley couldn't win New Hampshire, she probably won't win anywhere

Trump is on track to win all 56 primary contests.

January 23, 2024, 11:45 PM

New Hampshire was supposed to be former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s big breakout. She spent more of her time in the state, and spent more money on ads there, than any other Republican presidential candidate — and yet she still lost to former President Donald Trump. As of Tuesday night at 11 p.m. Eastern, Trump had 54 percent of the vote in the New Hampshire primary, and Haley had 45 percent.

Trump’s win likely closes the door on any possibility that he could lose the GOP nomination. While most delegates have yet to be awarded and Haley is still technically contesting the race, it’s not clear where she’ll be able to win any primaries or caucuses; New Hampshire was likely her best shot. As a result, it’s now pretty likely that Trump will sweep all 56 states and territories in the 2024 Republican primary.

Haley didn’t perform well in the Granite State just because she campaigned hard there; she campaigned hard there because her team correctly realized that New Hampshire’s demographics make it a uniquely bad fit for Trump. Indeed, if you tried to engineer a state in a lab to be bad for Trump in a Republican primary, it would look a lot like New Hampshire. To wit:

  • According to a December poll from The New York Times/Siena College, Trump was supported by 76 percent of Republican voters nationwide without a bachelor’s degree, but only 39 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree. New Hampshire is one of the top eight most college-educated states in the union, with 41 percent of people age 25 and older holding a bachelor’s degree.
  • As we wrote a couple weeks ago, evangelicals are one of Trump’s core voting blocs; when we averaged the evangelical crosstabs of national Republican primary polls, something like 70 percent of them supported Trump. But only 8 percent of New Hampshire residents are white evangelical Protestants, according to the Public Religion Research Institute. And in 2016 exit polls, New Hampshire ranked 27th out of 28 states in terms of how evangelical their Republican primary electorates were.
  • Trump also does better among self-identified Republicans than among self-identified independents who nonetheless participate in Republican primaries — a trend that Geoffrey Skelley identified months ago. According to preliminary exit polling, Trump won self-identified Republicans in New Hampshire 74 percent to 25 percent, but Haley won self-identified independents 60 percent to 38 percent. Haley did well in New Hampshire because 43 percent of the Republican primary electorate identified as independent, but this almost certainly won’t be the case in future contests. New Hampshire allows non-Republicans to vote in Republican primaries, which many states do not, and it also has more voters unaffiliated with a political party than most states. It’s no surprise, then, that in 2016, all but one exit-polled state (Massachusetts) had more self-identified Republicans in their Republican primary electorates than New Hampshire.

To power our tricked-out delegate tracker, G. Elliott Morris actually built a model that uses political and demographic factors like these to calculate each candidate’s level of support in each state and territory. And lo and behold, as of Monday, that model thought New Hampshire was Haley’s best, and Trump’s second-worst, state in the entire country.

True, that model undershot Haley’s performance in New Hampshire by about 10 percentage points, but even if you give her a 10-point boost everywhere else, it doesn’t put her ahead of Trump. Simply put, if Haley couldn’t win in New Hampshire, she will have trouble winning anywhere — including her home state of South Carolina, where she has staked her campaign despite trailing Trump by over 30 points in the polls. And obviously, you can’t win a presidential nomination without winning a single state.

Of course, we can never rule out a dramatic twist in the race, caused by something like a health scare or Trump’s legal issues. But at this point, it would take something that dramatic to cost Trump the nomination — because if nothing changes, the results so far indicate that he will win every primary contest and virtually every delegate that is up for grabs.