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With Three Weeks To Go, Where Is the GOP FITN? Right Where It Was in 2023

With Three Weeks To Go, Where Is the GOP FITN? Right Where It Was in 2023

Christmas is over, the New Year’s confetti has been cleaned up, and New Hampshire has entered the final stretch of the First in the Nation presidential primary. Now that Granite State voters are tuning in for the final three weeks of the campaign, what’s the state of the race?

About where it was before the campaign went on Christmas break: Donald Trump still has a solid lead, Nikki Haley is still his closest challenger, Chris Christie is still working hard to be the “Tell It Like It Is” alternative, and Ron DeSantis is putting all his chips on Iowa and hoping for a miracle.

While the Christmas to New Year’s holiday week is a notoriously slow news week, a few headlines were made. And they mostly helped Trump. The biggest one in the national media was Maine’s progressive (and unelected) secretary of state announcing her unilateral decision that Donald Trump will not appear on her state’s GOP ballot. Her announcement, which was praised by MSNBC but opposed by many Democrats in her own state, gave yet another boost to the fundamental premise of Trump’s campaign: Democrats are cheaters who don’t care about the rule of law, and the only way to fight back is to nominate a barroom brawler like Trump.

In New Hampshire, Haley made negative headlines when she flubbed a simple question about what caused the Civil War during a town hall in Berlin, N.H., last week. It was the perfect setup for Christie, who had just launched a TV ad touting his straight-talking campaign style.

But shifting anti-Trump votes between Haley and Christie doesn’t do anything to shrink the former president’s standing in New Hampshire, which, according to FiveThirtyEight.com’s poll aggregation, stands at 44.1 percent, compared to Haley at 25.7 percent and Christie at 11.1 percent. The RealClearPolitics average –which doesn’t include polls from pro-Haley Americans for Prosperity or the poorly-rated American Research Group’s poll putting Haley just four points behind Trump — gives Trump a 21-point lead (46 to 25 percent).

With all the polls in Iowa giving Trump at least a 30-point lead there, the current state of the race is that Trump is on course to win the first two contests before barreling into the Trump-friendly South Carolina.

If the mood of the GOP electorate has changed since Christmas, it didn’t show in the Suffolk University poll that dropped on New Year’s Day.

Trump’s support among Republican voters was 62 percent, “a record high for him,” according to USA Today. Haley’s at 13 percent, and DeSantis is down to 10 percent. Everyone else was in single digits. And the poll found Trump edging out President Joe Biden in a head-to-head match-up, a fact Trump supporters frequently tout.

“In the poll, 44 percent of Trump supporters describe themselves as a ‘10’ on a thermometer measuring enthusiasm, the highest possible level,” USA Today added.

Ask Haley supporters like Gov. Chris Sununu about those numbers, and they’ll tell you that “New Hampshire voters decide late.” But there’s another story developing among Granite State Republicans, too: “Why tune in? This race is already over.”

“I think that mostly people were paying attention to their holidays, and when it starts to get real is now,” Linda Fowler, a political science professor at Dartmouth College, told WCAX TV Monday. “So much of his appeal right now is inevitability and name recognition,” Fowler said.

New Hampshire GOP insiders told NHJournal a similar story.

“I’m amazed at how few Republicans I talk to are paying attention,” one Granite State GOP professional told NHJournal. “I presume they will now that the holidays are over. Or they won’t.”

“What I heard mostly over the holidays was, ‘Is Trump really going to win again?’” another New Hampshire GOP operative said. “And a handful of ‘How could Haley not answer that [Civil War] question?’”

All of which may explain why Sununu has begun openly calling for Christie to drop out of the race. On CNN Sunday, the New Hampshire governor said Christie’s campaign was at “a dead end.”

“I think all these candidates know it’s always kind of a longshot. And at the end of the day the only person moving is Nikki Haley. Chris Christie isn’t going to make up 30 points in the next three weeks, right?” Sununu said.

“The only person that wants Chris Christie to stay in the race is Donald Trump,” he added.

The big picture is that the big story of the 2024 GOP presidential primary has been how little has happened. Trump never trailed any of his competitors in 2023, and it would take a political earthquake for him to lose either Iowa or New Hampshire in the next three weeks.

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