As nearly the entire field of 2024 Republican presidential primary candidates arrives in the Granite State this weekend for the New Hampshire Republican Party’s First in the Nation Summit, a tight race for second place rages.
Although Donald Trump’s lead in national polls may seem insurmountable, polling in several early primary states — including New Hampshire — shows a significant portion of GOP voters may be apprehensive about nominating the former president for a 2020 rematch with President Joe Biden.
New Hampshire’s primary will be a key test of Republican voters’ faith in a Trump comeback amid his various legal woes — the former commander-in-chief is currently facing four separate criminal indictments for a total of 91 felony charges.
In recent weeks, GOP voters looking for an alternative to Trump have shifted their support from longtime runner-up Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy.
DeSantis, who began the year polling in the mid-20 percent range in New Hampshire polling, has fallen to the mid-teens.
Since the first two GOP primary debates, Haley has risen to second place in New Hampshire, narrowly overtaking DeSantis, according to 538 polling averages.
Haley is also doing well in the early primary state of South Carolina, currently holding second place behind Trump at 17.5 percent, leading DeSantis by over three points.
DeSantis, for his part, maintains a strong second place in Iowa, leading Haley by over eight points — although still trailing Trump by 31 points in the state and by over 45 points nationally.
Political outsider Ramaswamy, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott are also within striking distance of Haley and DeSantis.
Haley, Scott, DeSantis, and Ramaswamy all boast high net favorability among Republicans — a useful metric in determining who could be a viable challenger to Trump — while Christie sits at a -36.2 percentage net favorability per 538.
Meanwhile, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s announcement that he is running as an independent — no longer as a Democrat — could pose a serious spoiler threat to Trump, as he has enjoyed modest support from some conservatives.
Heading into a hypothetical Trump-Biden rematch in 2024, national general election polling shows Democrats may have cause for concern that Biden will not perform as well as he did in 2020.
A centrist candidate from the No Labels group, who has yet to name a potential candidate, and the independent Cornell West, who previously was running as a Green Party candidate, could pull undecided and Democratic voters away from Biden.
Recent head-to-head polls show Trump with a slight lead over Biden — the Real Clear Politics average currently has Trump neck-and-neck with Biden, leading by just 0.8 points.
While primary frontrunner Trump has chosen not to attend the NHGOP’s Summit, the speakers at the event will feature every other competitive primary candidate and a lineup of prominent national figures.
Candidates Haley, DeSantis, Ramaswamy, Christie, Doug Burgum, and Perry Johnson will speak on Friday at the Nashua Sheraton.
Mike Pence, Scott, Asa Hutchinson, and Ryan Binkley are scheduled to speak on Saturday.
Will Hurd, who was initially scheduled to speak, dropped out of the race Monday evening and endorsed Nikki Haley, saying she “has shown a willingness to articulate a different vision for the country than Donald Trump and has an unmatched grasp on the complexities of our foreign policy.”
Other speakers include Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, U.S. Sen. Jodi Ernst (R-Iowa), and former New York Congressman Lee Zeldin, as well as U.S. Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.), former acting I.C.E. Director Tom Homan, and actor Kevin Sorbo.
Gov. Chris Sununu is not expected to attend. However, gubernatorial candidates Kelly Ayotte and Chuck Morse will be speaking at the event.