New Hampshire voters will stream into city and town halls, schools and community centers Tuesday to cast ballots in the first-in-the-nation primary, with Republican Donald Trump and incumbent Democratic President Joe Biden leading in the polls.
Two Republicans and scores of long-shot candidates are all vying for the chance to take on Biden, who is seeking a second term but won’t be on the ballot Tuesday. Biden also faces a challenge from two Democratic contenders, though the latest polls show the incumbent write-in candidate in a comfortable position to win.
On the Republican ticket, Trump is hoping to capitalize on his historic win in the Iowa caucuses by scooping up New Hampshire’s 22 GOP delegates, which are awarded proportionally.
He faces a heated challenge from former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who is running with support from Republican Gov. Chris Sununu. Haley has spent the weekend in crisscrossing the state in an effort to sway undecided voters.
“There were 14 people in this race, a lot (of) fellas. All the fellas are out, except for this one,” she said in remarks Sunday. “And this comes down to what do you want? Do you want more of the same or do you want something new?”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who placed second in the Iowa caucuses, dropped out of the race over the weekend. He endorsed Trump, but will still be on the ballot.
“It’s clear to me that a majority of Republican primary voters want to give Donald Trump another chance,” DeSantis said in a prerecorded video. “He has my endorsement because we can’t go back to the old Republican guard of yesteryear, a repackaged form of warmed-over corporatism that Nikki Haley represents.”
In the run-up to Tuesday, Trump has abandoned the traditional shoe-leather campaigning that has characterized the New Hampshire primaries for decades, opting instead for tightly controlled rallies and events where he has blasted his competitors and criticized the media to the cheers of supporters. He has often repeated baseless claims that he won the 2020 presidential election.
His campaign has banned some journalists covering the primary from attending his rallies, restricting media access. A Gloucester Daily Times reporter covering the primaries for parent company CNHI was denied credentials for several events, including Trump’s election night party. No reason was given by the Trump campaign.
Trump handily won the Iowa caucuses last week, picking up a majority of the state’s counties, and is leading in the polls ahead of the New Hampshire primary. He has sought to portray Haley as the choice of Democrats and liberals.
“Nikki Haley is the candidate of the globalists and Democrats who will do everything to stop the America First movement,” the Trump campaign said in a statement. “From higher taxes, to decimating Social Security and Medicare, and to open borders, she represents the views of Democrats more than the views of Republicans.”
Trump has 50% support among those likely to vote in the primary, compared to Haley’s 36% support, according to a poll released Monday by the University of New Hampshire. Pollsters said immigration is the top issue for GOP voters.
On the Democratic side, Minnesota Congressman Dean Phillips and spiritual author Marianne Williamson are hoping to win votes with Biden not on the New Hampshire primary ballot.
Biden made that decision because national Democrats voted to change their calendar to put South Carolina and other more diverse states earlier in the primary process, but the president’s supporters have mounted a write-in campaign.
A separate UNH poll released Monday shows Biden heading to victory as a write-in candidate, with his two main challengers remaining relatively unknown and unpopular among the party’s faithful.
Many Granite State voters were undecided, polls showed, as the top-tier candidates revved up their campaigns with a seemingly relentless barrage of TV political ads and digital messaging.
New Hampshire’s so-called “undeclared” voters, or independents, make up about 40% of an electorate of nearly 1 million registered voters.
The battleground state had 267,905 registered Republicans, 262,262 Democrats and 343,192 independents as of Dec. 31, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
While the state’s voters are notorious for waiting until the last minute, when they do make up their minds, recent history shows they’re most often right.
The Granite State has picked 10 of the last 16 eventual Democratic nominees, and 15 of the last 17 Republican candidates, including Trump in 2016 and 2020.
The vote in New Hampshire will kick off a long schedule of primaries, including the March 5 Super Tuesday contest in Massachusetts and 15 other states.
Christian M. Wade is covering the New Hampshire primaries for CNHI, LLC and North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at [email protected].