With just two weeks to go until the New Hampshire primary, two new Granite State polls dropped — much to the delight of the Granite State Guru. Finally, some data! Finally, some numbers that shake up the race! Finally, something new to talk about besides “T-R-U-know-who!”
For much of the First in the Nation presidential primary cycle, the dozen or so local GOP insiders, academics, and operatives who make up the Granite State Guru aggregator have agreed the biggest story of the 2024 race is that, despite all the drama, there hasn’t been a “big story.” Plenty of spin and speculation but no surprise campaign tactic or unexpected political event big enough to change the trajectory of the race.
Since Labor Day, it’s been Trump polling in the mid-to-upper 40s and the rest of the field well behind.
As one GOP operative put it, “Same Trump, different day.”
Sure, the changing fortunes of the Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley campaigns have been interesting to watch, but neither has endangered Trump’s lead. Perhaps the most stunning CNN/UNH Survey Center poll finding was DeSantis falling to five percent and fifth place. (In the USA Today/Suffolk poll also released Monday, he was at eight percent and in fourth place.)
Haley’s rise continues to impress political professionals. Both polls released Monday were taken after her Civil War history misstep and had her doing well: 32 percent in the UNH poll and 26 percent in the Suffolk University survey.
The real difference is Trump.
Like nearly every poll since Independence Day, Suffolk put Trump at or above 40 percent (46 percent). Before today, there had only been three polls tracked by RCP that found Trump below 40 percent in that time. Two of them were UNH. Today, it had him at 39 percent.
The Granite State Guru found the UNH poll interesting, and a helpful reminder that not a single vote has yet been cast, voters can still surprise, and that a week is an eternity in politics.
But the Guru overwhelmingly believes the Suffolk poll. This is their aggregated prediction for the First in the Nation GOP race as of today:
- Trump: 47%
- Haley: 31%
- Christie: 12%
- DeSantis 7%
- Vivek 4%
In other words, as has been the case for weeks, Trump is within reach of 50 percent, Haley holds the second-place slot all to herself, and the rest of the field is fighting over about 25 percent of the vote.
And what are the odds that any candidate other than Trump wins the First in the Nation primary? More than half of the Guru team said “zero.” The aggregate average was around five percent.
Reflecting the findings of the Suffolk poll, there was a general consensus that Haley’s Civil War faux pas stopped her momentum here and cost her votes.
“Haley’s missteps capped her rise and came at the worst possible time, just as she was getting some movement. These stopped her dead in her tracks,” said veteran strategist Tom Rath. “She had to spend some days explaining and, as the conventional wisdom tells us, ‘When you’re explaining, you’re losing,’”
Another GOP insider said the price of her stumbles could end up being profound.
“The biggest effect of Haley’s missteps is that they have kept Christie in the race, at least until New Hampshire. He has been gently making the case against her – political chameleon, won’t rule out running as Trump’s VP, not really running against Trump, etc. Then she makes comments that reinforce everything he’s been saying about her. Forget the ‘Civil War’ stuff — Going out of her way to say she would pardon Trump and that you ‘change personalities’ from state to state? Watching all this, why would Christie get out now?”
While the conversation in much of the media is focused on what happens after Iowa — Does DeSantis drop out? Could Christie endorse? — the Granite State Guru asked what happens after New Hampshire?
Gov. Chris Sununu says Haley “knows what she needs to do there [in South Carolina] to win,” but most Granite State GOP professionals have serious doubts.
“I can imagine (it’s not easy but I can do it) Haley beating Trump in New Hampshire. Maybe independents just pour in on Election Day,” one experienced GOP operative said.” What I can’t see is how she wins in South Carolina. It’s ‘MAGA Country’ down there. And how does she stay in the race after she loses her home state?”
There is great interest in the St. Anselm College Survey Center poll expected to be released later this week. Will it back up UNH’s findings or reflect Suffolk University’s results and leave Andy Smith’s numbers as an outlier? That may be the most anticipated poll of the entire cycle.
Meanwhile, the Granite State Guru says the New Hampshire race looks like it will be close enough to be interesting, but it’s still Trump’s to lose.
Trump announced Monday afternoon he’s coming back to New Hampshire on Tuesday, Jan. 16 — the day after the Iowa caucuses.