Former President Donald Trump continues to dominate the First in the Nation GOP primary despite the fervent opposition of Granite State Gov. Chris Sununu. And as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis stumbles in the polls, South Carolina’s Nikki Haley is stepping up in New Hampshire.
That’s the finding of the new St. Anselm College Survey Center poll released Monday night:
- Donald Trump: 45%
- Nikki Haley: 15%
- Ron DeSantis: 11%
- Chris Christie: 10%
- Vivek Ramaswamy: 6%
- Tim Scott: 3%
- Mike Pence 1%
“Former President Donald Trump is maintaining his grip on the New Hampshire Republican Presidential Primary and now leads his closest challengers by a 3-1 margin,” said New Hampshire Institute of Politics Executive Director Neil Levesque. “The continued deterioration of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ support has created space for former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to grow.
“As in 2016, however, opposition to Trump is diluted over several candidates, preventing the consolidation that would be necessary to deny him a third straight nomination,” Levesque said.
Granite State Republicans hoping to see a nominee other than Trump said privately that while the race isn’t over, the odds of someone other than Trump winning New Hampshire or the party’s nomination are narrowing.
“The cake isn’t baked yet,” one NHGOP insider told NHJournal, “but you can smell it cooking.”
Trump’s strength is hard to overstate. At the national level, 57 percent of Republican primary voters are backing him, according to the RealClearPolitics.com (RCP) polling average. In the NBC News poll released Sunday, 58 percent of Republicans said they want Trump as the leader of their party.
Some Granite State Republicans like Sununu are quick to dismiss national polls by noting the contest is a state-by-state series. But the St. A’s poll also found twice as many local voters get their news from cable TV (28 percent) than from broadcast TV like WMUR (15 percent), and national polls impact the national news coverage these local voters are watching.
And while 19 percent get their news from websites like NHJournal, just four percent read it in the newspaper.
As for the argument that Trump isn’t doing as well in New Hampshire as he is nationwide, it is true. His RCP average here is around 44 percent. But he is above 40 percent in seven of the past 10 polls, and his number is inching upward, not down.
On the other hand, DeSantis has seen his support fall from 23 percent to 10 percent since June.
“I think it’s safe to say Gov. DeSantis’ campaign has officially hit the iceberg,” quipped former Trump advisor Corey Lewandowski.
DeSantis is scheduled to speak at the NHIOP’s Politics and Eggs on October 13, sponsored by the New England Council.
Meanwhile, the news is all good for former U.N. Ambassador Haley, who released her economic plan in a speech at the NHIOP Friday and has spent much time on the ground in New Hampshire.
“Granite Staters rightly expect candidates to show up, look them in the eye, and answer the tough questions. That’s exactly what Nikki’s done the past seven months and what she’ll continue to do to earn the trust of every single voter,” said Haley campaign spokesperson Ken Farnaso. “No one will outwork Nikki.”
Haley is likely happy with her approval numbers in the new poll, 65 percent favorable and just 28 percent unfavorable. That 37 percent net favorable is higher than every candidate except Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), whose net favorable is 51 percent.
However, he was also at just three percent in the horse race poll.
(Christie remains the least popular Republican in the race, with a net negative of 46 percent, narrowly edging out Mike Pence’s negative 44 percent.)
Veteran GOP strategist Michael Dennehy said Haley has been able to do what other candidates this cycle have not: Turn a bump into something bigger.
“Haley has fully capitalized on a winning first debate performance by spending considerable time campaigning in the FITN state — and it’s paying off,” Dennehy said. “But now she needs a solid encore performance to keep the momentum alive. As we have seen in past presidential elections, candidates pop up or down depending on debate performance.
“She is up now, but voters are fickle this early, and she needs to make sure they stay with her,” Dennehy added.
And what about Trump’s lead? Is the GOP primary over before it begins?
“I firmly believe that Trump’s floor is 45 percent, and he could go higher depending on the ability of the other candidates to gain traction,” Dennegy said. “There is no doubt that he will be tough to beat. However, the other thing that hasn’t changed is that about 50 percent of the primary vote is not with Trump. It’s still sitting there for a candidate to grab.”
On issues, the economy and inflation top the list of priorities for NHGOP primary voters (31 percent), with immigration in second at 18 percent. Both of those issues play well for the former president.
Team Trump is also happy about the national polls over the weekend showing him tied or leading President Joe Biden. That trend undermines the argument being made by establishment Republicans in New Hampshire that nominating Trump means losing the general election in November.
“Underestimate Trump’s Chances in 2024 at Your Peril,” Bloomberg News wrote Monday.