Strong turnout as Trump eyes presidential nod in New Hampshire

MANCHESTER: Voters streamed to the polls Tuesday in the New Hampshire primary where Donald Trump was hoping to demolish his only remaining opponent for the Republican presidential nomination and effectively kick off his extraordinary battle for a second White House term.
Amid reports of high turnout, former UN ambassador Nikki Haley was hoping to pull off a major upset against Trump’s seemingly unstoppable march to becoming Republican standard bearer in November.
In his convention-smashing mission to exact revenge on President Joe Biden, who defeated him in 2020, Trump has defied two impeachments, four criminal trials awaiting him and lawsuits for fraud and sexual assault.
While Haley has questioned his mental fitness and warned another Trump presidency would bring “chaos,” polls indicate her efforts will be little more than a road bump for Trump in New Hampshire.
“If you want a losing candidate who puts America last, vote for Nikki Haley,” Trump said in his final pitch at a rally in Laconia village.
“But if you want a president who puts America first every single time, you’re going to vote for Donald J. Trump.”
On Tuesday he stopped outside a polling station, hailing his supporters as an “organic” movement to retake the White House.
“I think it’s going to be close because New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu is a very strong person and he’s backed Haley,” said voter Jay Matthews, 70, from Plymouth, New Hampshire.
“So I think with that backing, she’s going to give (Trump) a good run — she might even win it.”
Voters gathered nearby outside a school turned polling station and chatted about the primary battle underway.
The state office responsible for organizing the vote told Fox News that “voter turnout is very strong.”
New Hampshire, in the northeast United States, is more Haley-friendly than states she will subsequently face, and continuing into February will be a tough sell without a win or at least a narrow loss.
Haley — aged 52 to Trump’s 77 — sounded defiant Tuesday as voting started, telling Fox News “political elites are saying we all need to coalesce around him.
“This is not a coronation. This is a democracy,” she said.
“We are going to have a strong showing today here in New Hampshire.”
Two person race
Trump won a crushing victory in the first contest in Iowa last week, with Haley a distant third, and no Republican has ever won both opening contests and not secured the nomination.
What was once a crowded field of 14 candidates narrowed to a one-on-one match-up on Sunday after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis dropped out, following a second-place finish in Iowa.
He and Trump were in a comparatively close race until the ex-president’s multiple court indictments began to drop in March and Trump supporters closed ranks.
“We’re going to all come back, they’re (voters) all coming back,” Trump said at a polling station in Londonderry, New Hampshire Tuesday.
Trump has spent less time in New Hampshire than Haley, juggling one rally a night with court appearances out of state — and spurning the “retail politics” of visits to diners, sports halls and high schools.
But his message — a mixture of personal grievance and culture war firing his base — has delivered seemingly insurmountable polling leads.
Appealing to moderates
One of Trump’s complaints has been his false claim that Democrats are allowed to vote in the Republican contest.
Independents can have their say and Haley is seeking to energize a flagging campaign with support from the state’s moderates who outnumber registered party members.
She spent the week hammering the message, backed by polling, that most Americans do not want to see a Trump-Biden rematch.
New Hampshire Democrats also vote for their standard-bearer Tuesday, defying a national party order to hold the primary later.
Biden did not file candidate paperwork, but supporters have pledged to write his name in, hoping he can beat Minnesota congressman Dean Phillips and self-help author Marianne Williamson.
The president chose to campaign in Virginia Tuesday, focusing on abortion rights — a Biden signature policy.
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