MANCHESTER, New Hampshire: The Republican presidential primary in New Hampshire on Tuesday offers no shortage of intrigue.
While it will provide an opportunity for frontrunner Donald Trump to demonstrate that he may be unstoppable in his march to the Republican nomination, it also gives challenger Nikki Haley a shot to show that Trump can be vulnerable.
The contest between Trump and Haley is expected to be closer than the result in Iowa last week. Trump vanquished Haley, who served as his United Nations ambassador, and his other remaining rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, by 30 percentage points in the state’s caucuses.
DeSantis dropped out of the race on Sunday, giving Haley the two-person primary contest she has long sought.
Here’s a look at the stakes for Trump and Haley ahead of the New Hampshire vote:
DONALD TRUMP: The former president has held packed rallies in New Hampshire virtually every day in the run-up to the primary, a hectic pace for a candidate who usually prefers to pick his spots.
But there’s a simple reason why. He wants this. Badly.
Trump and his aides want to convince Haley, her voters and her donors as well as the media covering the campaign that the race is over and Trump will be the nominee. Get aboard the train.
Trump beating Haley by a significant margin would go a long way toward accomplishing that.
Conversely, the Trump camp is aware that a close finish would send the opposite signal — that a hefty portion of the Republican electorate is still looking for someone else.
Haley would claim momentum heading in next month’s primary in her home state of South Carolina, where she was governor.
Money likely would keep flowing in to keep her bid alive.
That’s a worst-case scenario for Trump, but he would remain the favourite for the nomination to take on Democratic President Joe Biden in November regardless.
NIKKI HALEY: A win by Haley in New Hampshire would amount to a political earthquake.
An upset would wipe away the aura of inevitability that Trump has carried for months, and it would energise the anti-Trump forces in the party.
Haley could then to proceed to South Carolina as a viable Trump alternative, with her making the argument that she represents the future of the party and he the past. The battle would be joined and the final result uncertain.
A close second-place finish by Haley wouldn’t quite accomplish the same thing but still would allow her to contend that the anti-Trump vote should coalesce around her — particularly now that DeSantis is out of the race.
Polls have shown DeSantis’ supporters are more likely to switch their support to Trump than Haley. But DeSantis’ exit gives Haley the opportunity to chase voters of his who want to turn the page on Trump and install a new generation of leadership.
Whether a strong showing in New Hampshire would ultimately help her compete with Trump in South Carolina and down the road would remain to be seen, but she would have a legitimate rationale for staying in the fight.
A convincing Trump victory would be devastating for Haley, robbing her of any claim of viability. It would show that Trump’s support is so broad across the party that there would be little hope of derailing him.