New Hampshire may be known as the fifth smallest state by area and, with less than 1.5 million residents, the tenth least populous state in the US, but it is also known as the Granite State (for its extensive formations and quarries of beautiful granite) whose motto, Live Free or Die, is one that its fiercely independent voters are proud of and that all other states in the Union wish they had thought of before.
And it is in New Hampshire where the first primary election in the nation is held — a privilege the state has jealously guarded for well over a century — and where on Tuesday former president Donald Trump, who hoped to solidify his seemingly impregnable position as the GOP’s front-runner for president, and former South Carolina governor Nikky Haley hoped, against all odds, that her strength among independent voters and never-Trumpers would enable her to pull off an upset, squared off in a one-on-one contest.
The elections held earlier in Iowa, it should be noted, were caucuses, which, much like juries, are closed meetings of party members who usually meet to select a candidate and decide on policy, not primaries, where secret ballots are cast by voters.
Size, in this case, does not matter. “It is an interesting feature of the American [political] system”, wrote a CNN commentator on Monday, “that anyone who wants to be president will have to get his or her message across to everyday people in New Hampshire living rooms and make appearances in the state’s diners”.
Trump’s goal there? Deal Haley a knockout blow so severe that she would not get to go anywhere remotely close to Super Tuesday on March 5 — Super Tuesday being the day in a presidential election year when traditionally the greatest number of states (24) hold primary elections to select delegates, and when more of these can be won on that day than in any other in the primaries.
It began auspiciously for Haley. In the tiny resort town of Dixville Notch, the only place in New Hampshire where voting began one minute after midnight on Tuesday, all six registered voters there cast their ballots for the former governor.
Mickey Mouse, snorted analysts. The inevitability of a Trump win in the state was evident. The man, after all, topped Haley in the polls by double digits and would win by a landslide.
He did — if not by a landslide then by a blow that sent her down for the count. You could say that, around 8:00pm on Tuesday, Donald J. Trump had effectively, if not formally, become the Republican nominee for president of the United States and Nikky Haley’s defeat raised serious doubts about her path forward as a viable candidate contending for her party’s nomination as president.
Trump v. Biden
It is now almost certain that, come November, it’ll be Trump v. Biden.
Donald J. Trump, the man who, by creating a narrative of political persecution by his putative enemies (folks on a “witch hunt” to prevent his rightful return to the White House) has maintained a cultlike base that adores him (a sample legend on a T-shirt at his rally in New Hampshire on Friday read: “Jesus is my saviour, Trump is my president”). Trump’s influence extends to GOP lawmakers on the Hill, despite being a twice-impeached former president facing 91 criminal charges in four indictments.
And Joe Biden, who trails Trump in virtually all battleground states and whose low approval ratings continue to dog him, may very well find himself a one-term president. For, let’s face it, his stalwart supporters have deserted him in droves, including his once many, many Muslim and Arab — in particular Palestinian Arab — supporters.
If there had been any lingering doubts in these folks’ monds, they were dissipated after Biden issued a statement earlier this month marking the 100th day of the Gaza war, one that included no mention of the 25,000 Gazans killed, the 63,000 injured, the 10,000 missing and the unrecorded number of people dying daily of dehydration, rampant disease, unattended wounds and what UN officials now call “catastrophic hunger”.
Look, voters change their worldview, as well as their votes, when the world they inhabit changes around them. And for many of us voters in the US the Gaza war made the world look different to us.
Then what? Those who abhor the thought had better start entertaining it — Donald Trump, on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2025, being sworn in as president of the United States again.
That’s about as phantasmagoric as it gets.
— Fawaz Turki is a noted academic, journalist and author based in Washington DC. He is the author of The Disinherited: Journal of a Palestinian Exile