Former Govs. Chris Christie and Nikki Haley are heading to the Granite State this week to make their pitch to Republican primary voters. But a flurry of new polling released over the weekend shows former President Donald Trump continues to hold a massive lead over the rest of the GOP field — and an edge over President Joe Biden, too.
Christie is scheduled to be in Manchester and Concord on Monday, while Haley has events scheduled in Barrington and Hollis on Tuesday and a Manchester roundtable on fentanyl on Wednesday. (Details about all First in the Nation primary events can be found on the NHJournal calendar page.)
State Rep. Wayne MacDonald (R-Londonderry) backed Christie in 2016 and is on board for 2024 as well. He told NHJournal he plans to attend the Concord town hall.
“I anticipate Gov. Christie will take questions dealing with a wide range of issues from the audience and answer them in detail. I would also anticipate him to continue his critique of Donald Trump and Trump’s record.”
Sources close to the Haley campaign tell NHJournal her message in New Hampshire this week will focus a great deal on China and foreign policy. Haley has been an outspoken critic of the Biden administration’s foreign policy, particularly when it comes to China, and the White House’s willingness to put climate issues ahead of national security.
“Here you have China, who has literally been preparing for war with us for years,” Haley told Fox News last week. “Look at the infiltration, whether it’s them buying U.S. soil next to military bases. Whether it’s the fact that they have a Chinese spy balloon going over us. Whether it’s the fact that they are infiltrating our universities. Whether it’s the fact they have Chinese front companies lobbying Congress… And he wants to talk about green energy? The priorities of the Biden administration are so off base, and John Kerry is the poster child for it.”
But can Christie’s candor or Haley’s tough talk on China turn around the polls in the primary, here in New Hampshire or across the U.S.?
Three of the last four national polls in the RealClearPolitics average have Trump above 50 percent among Republican primary voters. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, on the other hand, is below 20 percent in the RCP average (19.3 percent), and only two other candidates — entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy (5.9 percent) and former Vice President Mike Pence (5.7 percent) — are above five percent.
As one New Hampshire GOP activist not connected to any candidate told NHJournal, “This race is over — it’s Trump and ‘The Walking Dead.’”
Early-state numbers are favorable to the former president as well. A new Fox News Business poll of likely Iowa caucus attendees shows Trump with 46 percent support, DeSantis at 16 percent, and Scott at 11 percent.
“From there, it’s Vivek Ramaswamy at 6 percent, Nikki Haley at 5 percent, Mike Pence at 4 percent, and Chris Christie and Doug Burgum at 3 percent each,” Fox News Business reported.
In South Carolina, Trump is at 48 percent in this same poll, with Haley at 14 percent, DeSantis at 13 percent, and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) at 10 percent.
Trump also led in last week’s UNH Survey Center poll, though with 37 percent support. DeSantis was at 23 percent, and Scott at 8 percent.
Gov. Chris Sununu, who has been openly critical of Trump, told Fox News on Saturday the former president’s softening support in New Hampshire is a sign there’s a “huge opportunity for everybody else.”
Calling Trump an “incumbent president who’s sitting under 40 percent,” he said, “60-plus percent of voters aren’t with Trump in New Hampshire, and I think that number will grow.”
“The reality is that this can’t be our candidate because it ain’t gonna win in 2024. That reality is coming to bear.”
Trump supporters dismiss the electability argument, pointing to a new Harvard-Harris poll showing Trump leading President Joe Biden 45-40 percent in a theoretical match-up. However, a Quinnipiac poll taken the same week gave Biden the advantage, 49-44 percent.
Christie campaign spokesperson Karl Rickett says that since the candidate’s last visit to the Granite State, “we hit the 40,000 donor mark to qualify for the debate stage and continue to rise in the New Hampshire polls.
MacDonald acknowledged Christie was trailing in the polls, but he sees the opportunity for growth.
“From what I’m hearing from Republicans, people generally either don’t know enough about Christie yet, or they like the fact he isn’t trying to be ‘Trump light.’
“Of course, the Trump supporters I know aren’t happy with him,” MacDonald added.