Presidential candidate Nikki Haley is banking on performing well in New Hampshire to carry her through South Carolina and the rest of the 2024 race.
New Hampshire could be Haley’s holy grail due to the share of independents who could vote for her in the 39% indie voter state. Polling numbers show her rising in the first primary state, even coming within four percentage of Donald Trump in one survey.
But the “momentum” Haley’s camp is hoping for could prove risky. Per RealClearPolitics’ average, Haley is polling at 21.8% in her home state of South Carolina compared to Trump’s 52%, and still more than 20 points behind the former president in the Granite State.
The former UN ambassador could also run into other hurdles after New Hampshire.
In Nevada, which votes in early February, Haley is the sole top GOP candidate competing in the primary, and is not eligible to earn any delegates. All other White House hopefuls are competing in the caucuses.
Haley’s “win” in the Nevada primary could add to her momentum and spur media coverage, but the results of the election will only be publicized after the caucuses, making her possible boost complicated at best.
New Hampshire strategy
The N.H. strategy has become clearer in recent days, with Haley telling voters they can “correct” the Iowa outcome and Governor Chris Sununu predicting she would win in his state.
“You know Iowa starts it. You know that you correct it … you know that my sweet state of South Carolina brings it home,” Haley said Wednesday night in New Hampshire.
She then defended her comments in an Iowa town hall Thursday night to a booing audience, saying she was having “fun” and inspiring “banter” between the early states.
The former South Carolina governor has been ambiguous about the specific place she wants to get, and instead has maintained she wants to be the primary challenger to Trump.
Sununu offered the clearest prediction from her camp on Wednesday, guaranteeing she will defeat Trump in New Hampshire and deliver a “strong second” in Iowa.
Haley’s campaign told The Post that they see the Granite State race as a head-to-head with Trump.
“This is a two-person race between Donald Trump and Nikki Haley. Trump is spending millions in attack ads against Nikki because he’s scared. Nikki is putting in the work, shaking every hand and answering every question. We’re excited to keep building off our momentum,” Haley spokesperson AnnMarie Graham-Barnes told The Post.
The Haley rep’s statement refers to the recent attacks coming out of Trump world against her. The super PAC backing Trump, MAGA Inc., recently released several ads in New Hampshire targeting Haley over her previous comments on gas price hikes and her policies on the border.
Rising in Iowa
Haley has also been campaigning heavily in Iowa and has seen some movement in the polls — but not to the degree of New Hampshire.
Her sprint for the caucuses was boosted by an October endorsement from the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a Charles Koch-funded organization with aggressive grassroots capabilities. Since, the surrogates have worked to convince voters to choose Haley, but have been placing catch-up to DeSantis, who had placed his primary focus on Iowa earlier in the fall.
The Florida governor, who has been slipping in the polls, made Iowa more of a priority earlier in the fall by moving a large portion of his staff to Des Moines and dedicating time to completing the “Full Grassley” 99-county tour of the state.
Haley’s focus has been more on Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, compared to DeSantis’ “Iowa-or-bust” strategy, her campaign previously told The Post.
Haley will continue to campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire before the early voters make their decisions on Jan. 15 and Jan. 23. She plans to go to the Hawkeye State with Sununu on Saturday to hit three foddered cities with the governor.
She’s also slated to participate in a debate with DeSantis on Jan. 10 in Iowa, days before the caucuses, and will likely debate him again in New Hampshire on Jan. 21.
South Carolina home turf
Haley’s campaign previously told The Post they expect to win the South Carolina primary on Feb. 24.
Win or lose, the result will prove monumental to Haley, who was a two-term governor in the state. Top leadership in the state has put their weight behind Trump, including Gov. Henry McMaster and Sen. Lindsey Graham. Sen. Tim Scott, who dropped out of the 2024 race, has yet to make an endorsement.
An Emerson College poll released Friday showed her polling 29 points behind Trump, 54% to 25%.
Performing well in both Iowa and New Hampshire will be the ticket, South Carolina-based GOP strategist Dave Wilson told The Post.
“Nikki Haley is going to have to show that she can come in first or a very solid second in Iowa and New Hampshire to come into South Carolina with enough momentum to surpass Donald Trump,” Wilson said.
“His lead is solidly 25 points plus, and it is going to take a lot of momentum and traction for Haley to surpass that in a state where a plurality wins all the delegates.”