Can Trump Be Stopped? That And More Key Questions Heading Into The New Hampshire Primary

FILE - The state flag of New Hampshire flies alongside the American flag, Oct. 4, 2019, in Exeter, N.H. New Hampshire is set to vote for 2024 presidential nominees in the nation’s first primary on Tuesday, Jan. 23,2024. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)


Donald Trump’s effort to march to the Republican presidential nomination faces perhaps its greatest challenge on Tuesday when voters in New Hampshire hold the first-in-the-nation primary.

The former president enters the contest emboldened by his record-setting performance in last week’s Iowa caucuses. But New Hampshire has a more moderate political tradition and primary rules that allow unaffiliated voters to participate in the race. Trump-backed MAGA candidates have struggled here in recent years.

Nikki Haley is hoping to capitalize on those vulnerabilities. The former U.N. ambassador is the only candidate left in the GOP primary aiming to defeat Trump outright. After a disappointing finish in Iowa, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is effectively surrendering new Hampshire and focusing on South Carolina’s Feb. 24 primary.

A Haley victory would usher in a more competitive phase of a primary that Trump has so far dominated. A Trump win, however, could create a sense of inevitability around the prospect that he could become the GOP nominee for the third consecutive time.

Don’t forget that Democrats have a primary, too. President Joe Biden is not on the ballot, having made South Carolina the first formal stop on the Democratic primary calendar. But New Hampshire is sticking to tradition and hosting its own Democratic primary anyway.

Here’s what we’re watching for on Tuesday:


If Trump’s rivals can’t beat him in New Hampshire, they may not be able to stop him anywhere else.

Tuesday’s election has essentially become a one-on-one fight between Trump and Haley, which is exactly what Trump’s Republican critics have been clamoring for. Haley appears competitive and enjoys support among moderate voters and independents. She’s also earned the backing of popular New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu.

Still, Trump remains the favorite.

Sensing a knock-out blow, the former president has called in his growing army of prominent supporters in recent days to help demonstrate his strength. South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, Trump’s former opponent, endorsed Trump at a New Hampshire rally over the weekend. New York Rep. Elise Stefanik and Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance stumped for Trump on Saturday before an appearance from South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster.

A significant number of New Hampshire Republicans insist they will never support Trump. And without a competitive Democratic primary in the way, many left-leaning unaffiliated voters could decide to support Haley. But that doesn’t change the fact that Republican primary elections are typically decided by Republicans, and Trump’s grip on the base appears stronger than ever.

Still, New Hampshire loves a comeback story (just ask Bill Clinton), so we wouldn’t rule anything out.


More than any issue or shortcoming, Trump’s fate may be tied most to who actually shows up to vote on Tuesday.

Iowa saw one of its lowest turnouts in recent history in last week’s caucuses. Low turnout elections typically favor the candidate with the strongest support among the party’s base. And in 2024, that’s Trump.

But Haley’s team has been trying to expand the New Hampshire electorate by appealing to less-ideological moderate Republicans and left-leaning independents.

New Hampshire law allows unaffiliated voters to participate in either party’s nomination contest. Democrats are not allowed to vote in the GOP primary, although voters had an opportunity to change their registration back in October.

Haley needs a large turnout to have a chance on Tuesday. And that’s exactly what state officials are expecting.

New Hampshire Secretary of State David M. Scanlan predicted that 322,000 voters would participate in the Republican primary, which would be a record high. On the Democratic side, he’s expecting just 88,000 given that there’s virtually no competition.

To defeat Trump, Haley probably needs more than a record-high turnout overall — she needs to bring out unaffiliated voters in record numbers, too. Trump’s team is skeptical. And history is not on her side.