Just after the Iowa caucuses delivered a resounding win for Donald Trump, former GOP Representative David Jolly, now a Democrat, stated the obvious on MSNBC. Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis “are running to be the last ones to drop out.” Noting that Jolly “stated the obvious” isn’t meant as an insult; sometimes pundits of both parties resist the truth to create narratives that are more interesting than the clear reality, and Jolly resisted that. We have seen too much resisting reality this year.
Soon after that, DeSantis left the glory for Haley, dropping out. Tuesday, for an hour or so, based on New Hampshire exit polls about “vibes,” it seemed like the former South Carolina governor had exceeded expectations in the state. MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki hyped Haley’s apparent edge. But she did not exceed expectations, did not edge Trump out. Still, she is going to hang in.
Haley came closer in New Hampshire than the most damning projections suggested she would, and thus she didn’t drop out. But I go back to Jolly’s point: Anti-Trump Republicans need somebody in there, in case he’s convicted (absolutely likely, but unlikely before the convention). As Haley told the Fox and Friends hosts: “I don’t care how much y’all want to coronate Donald Trump. At the end of the day, that’s not what Americans want. Americans want a choice.”
While New Hampshire would have seemed to give Donald Trump a decisive victory, she didn’t agree. It now seems like she maybe came within 10 points of beating Trump, and that is going to be considered a victory here. “We got close to half of the vote!” Haley exclaimed in her semi-victory speech in Concord. “And we keep moving up!”
Looking at the recent history of the Trump-dominated GOP, she’s not wrong. “With Donald Trump, we lost in 2018, we lost in 2020, we lost in 2022,” she recounted correctly.
The next contest that matters, ironically, is Haley’s South Carolina, which votes in the primary on February 24. And Trump is absolutely winning there. I don’t think she’s going to pull out, nonetheless. She’s the last one standing. There are reasons to think Trump could flop. I don’t think she will win. But who knows?
Nikki pulled a semi-win in New Hampshire Tuesday. I don’t think she’ll matter, but more New Hampshire voters than expected wanted an alternative to Trump. And that matters.