June 18, 2024

It appears that playing the “Mean Girl” at the second GOP Debate turned out to be in former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s favor. An exclusive USA Today/Boston Globe/Suffolk University survey shows Haley winning 19 percent of likely voters in New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation Republican presidential primary. Haley has pushed past Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who now languishes at 10 percent. 

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“I’m not 100% with Nikki; just with what I’ve followed so far, she’s the one that’s closest to what I would like to see in the president,” said David Paquette, 72, a retired engineer from Atkinson, N.H., who was among those surveyed. A political independent, he likes DeSantis’ record in Florida and is considering him, too. “He has a lot of great programs that he’s actually implemented.”

The poll of 500 likely Republican primary voters by landline and cellphone Thursday through Monday has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 points. Independents, who are permitted to vote in New Hampshire primaries, made up 40% of the sample; 60% were Republicans.

Trump remains Trump. The former president leads the pack with an impressive 49 percent.

Haley spent much of the September 27 GOP presidential debate interrupting her fellow candidates, arguing with her fellow South Carolinian, Sen. Tim Scott over curtains, and schooling tech entrepreneur Vivek Rasmaswamy. Most of my RedState colleagues and our readers understood that she needed to make a splash in order to move ahead of the fray (and particularly DeSantis). However, it could also have been a drag on her candidacy rather than a boost. It was a risky strategy, but it appears to have paid off not only with likely voters, but with donors.

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“Honestly, every time I hear you I feel a little bit dumber for what you say.”

Nikki Haley’s put-down of Vivek Ramaswamy was perhaps the closest thing to a zinger in an otherwise messy Republican primary debate in which Mike Pence’s jokes bombed, Chris Christie’s “Donald Duck” jibe fell flat and Ramaswamy suffered second album syndrome.

It also came as the only woman on stage finds momentum in her effort to displace the faltering Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida, as the party’s leading alternative to Donald Trump.

After last month’s first debate, where she provided a dose of realism on issues such as abortion, Haley has been drawing bigger crowds and fresh interest from donors. A CNN poll conducted by SSRS found that, in a hypothetical matchup, she leads Biden 49% to 43% while every other major Republican candidate is neck-and-neck with him.

Perhaps. The Iowa caucus is pretty much a done deal, as candidates made their cases at the August state fair. New Hampshire will be the very first Republican primary contest, with a few more debates and lots of space between October and January 23, 2024. As the survey cautions, this is a fluid race where numbers, and candidate loyalties, can change on a dime. However, the fact that Haley has made such a strong surge and is almost 10 points ahead of the favored, but flagging, DeSantis could prove prescient. 

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The other candidates on the dais did not even reach double digits.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was at 6%; tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott were at 4%; and former Vice President Mike Pence and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum stood at 1%.

 If Haley does not manage to wrest the mantle of likely Republican nominee from Trump, she has certainly moved ahead of her peers as top choice for the Republican vice presidential slot.

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