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Haley makes final New Hampshire push to slow down Trump

Donald Trump’s last remaining republican opponent, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, was making a final push to convince New Hampshire voters to turn out and deliver her an upset victory in the state’s presidential nominating contest.

New Hampshire’s primary vote will split the state’s republican voters into two camps: those with former President Trump, and those against him. The contest became a one-on-one race on Sunday, when Florida Governor Ron DeSantis ended his struggling campaign and endorsed Trump.

Mr Trump, who polls show leads Ms Haley by double digits, is hoping to deliver a fatal blow to the former South Carolina governor’s campaign by notching another commanding win.

He coasted to a record-setting victory in Iowa’s First-in-the-nation contest last week.

For Ms Haley, New Hampshire represents perhaps her last chance to prove the republican base could consider someone other than Mr Trump, who commands the party’s faithful despite facing 91 felony counts. He has pleaded not guilty to every crime, claiming political persecution.

At the first of five planned campaign events in New Hampshire, Ms Haley told a packed veterans’ hall in a working class town that Mr Trump was hung up on vendettas and preoccupied with court cases, keeping him from focusing on the future.

“When you go out on Tuesday, you’re gonna decide: do you want more of the same, or do you want something new?,” Ms Haley asked voters in Franklin.

Mr Trump held just one event, a rally in the central town of Laconia, where he was joined by former republican presidential candidates, including Senator Tim Scott and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who have since endorsed him.

He repeated previous claims that his opponents, not him, were enemies of democracy since the Justice Department has indicted him on multiple criminal counts, some related to his attempts to overturn his 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden.

Former Republican Presidential Candidate Vivek Ramaswamy rallies support for Donald Trump

“Our enemies want to take away my freedom, because I will never let them take away your freedom,” he said, to loud applause.

The state’s large number of independent voters, who are permitted to cast ballots in the election, make New Hampshire friendlier turf for Ms Haley than the more conservative Iowa.

Even so, Mr Trump holds a double-digit lead in most statewide public polls.

A poll released by Monmouth University yesterday, but conducted before Mr DeSantis dropped out, showed 52% of voters would choose Trump, 34% would choose Haley and 8% would choose DeSantis.

DeSantis supporters were twice as likely to name Mr Trump than Ms Haley as their second choice, according to the poll.

Haley has a shot

The result could hinge on voter turnout and the ratio of republicans to independents, known in the state as “undeclared,” said Jim Merrill, a republican strategist in New Hampshire.

“Nikki Haley has a shot here tomorrow and that shot is having enough republican voters (stay home), then a large undeclared turnout,” Mr Merrill told a media roundtable.

Mr Merrill said for Ms Haley to prevail, turnout would likely need to be close to 340,000 voters. That’s higher than the projection for a record-setting 322,000 voters disclosed by the New Hampshire secretary of state’s office last week.

The current record for a New Hampshire republican presidential primary is 287,653 voters in 2016.

A victory for Ms Haley could give her the momentum and fundraising she needs ahead of the next major nominating contest on 24 February in South Carolina, her home state where she served two terms as governor.

The winner of this year’s republican nominating contests will take on Mr Biden, the presumptive democratic nominee, in November’s general election.

The national Democratic Party made South Carolina its first official primary, so Mr Biden is not on the ballot. Still, support for Mr Biden’s write-in campaign in New Hampshire will be closely-watched amid weak polls for the 81-year-old president.

After a robocall using fake audio of Biden urging democrats to stay home began circulating in New Hampshire, the White House denied the president had made any such recording and said it highlights the risks of “deep fakes’ and misinformation.

Trump trial postponed

Mr Trump had been expected to spend the morning potentially testifying in a New York courtroom in a defamation case brought against him by author E. Jean Carroll, who says he raped her decades ago. Mr Trump accuses Ms Carroll of making up the story to boost her memoir.

However the trial was postponed after a juror reported feeling ill and a parent of Trump’s lead lawyer tested positive for COVID-19. The judge in the trial said he will decide later whether to let Mr Trump testify tomorrow, so he can be in New Hampshire for today’s vote.

As with his criminal cases, which he has frequently used in fundraising pleas, Mr Trump has portrayed the court case as part of a broader conspiracy by liberal forces to derail his candidacy.

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