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Trump closes in on Biden rematch after New Hampshire

Donald Trump won the key New Hampshire primary, moving him ever closer to locking in the Republican presidential nomination and securing an extraordinary White House rematch with Joe Biden.

With vote counting ongoing, it was unclear if Mr Trump had secured the knockout victory to put his sole remaining challenger Nikki Haley out of the contest.

In a speech following the vote, the former UN ambassador during Mr Trump’s frequently chaotic presidency said the race was “far from over” and told supporters that Democrats “want” to run against her former boss.

“They know Trump is the only Republican in the country who Joe Biden can defeat,” Ms Haley, 52, warned.

With strong turnout in the northeastern state, Ms Haley had hoped for a major upset. But US broadcasters quickly projected her defeat as the first tallies came in.

Mr Trump was already the runaway leader in national Republican polling, despite two impeachments as president, and four criminal trials hanging over him since leaving office.

While Ms Haley repeatedly questioned the 77-year-old’s mental fitness and warned another Mr Trump presidency would bring “chaos,” polls indicate her efforts in New Hampshire created little more than a speed bump.

Nikki Haley has vowed to keep fighting for the Republican presidential nomination

“I think it’s a two-person race now between Trump and Biden,” Keith Nahigian, a veteran of six presidential campaigns and former member of Mr Trump’s transition team, told AFP.

New Hampshire was markedly more Haley-friendly than states she will subsequently face, should she stay in the race, and continuing into February will be a tough sell without a win or at least a narrow loss.

Her next must-win stop will be her home state South Carolina.

Two-person race

Mr Trump won a crushing victory in the first Republican contest in Iowa last week, with Ms Haley a distant third.

What was once a crowded field of 14 candidates narrowed to a one-on-one match-up on Sunday after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis dropped out, following his second-place Iowa finish.

No Republican has ever won both opening contests and not ultimately secured the party’s nomination.

Mr Trump did little actual campaigning in New Hampshire. However, his message – a mixture of personal grievance and right-wing culture war firing his base – has delivered seemingly insurmountable polling leads.

One of Mr Trump’s complaints has been his false claim that Democrats are allowed to vote in the Republican contest in New Hampshire.

However, independents are allowed to vote, and Ms Haley had hoped they would revolt against Mr Trump, seeing her as the moderate alternative.

She spent the week hammering the message, backed by polling, that most Americans do not want to see a Trump-Biden rematch.

“Nikki Haley’s supporters will surely feel that Tuesday night in New Hampshire was a reasonably good night. But once the relative shine of the Granite State result wears off… all but the most ardent Haley supporters will be looking through a glass darkly,” said Aron Solomon, a political analyst for legal marketing agency Amplify.

US President Joe Biden at abortion rights rally

Biden abortion campaign interrupted by protesters

US President Joe Biden took aim at Republicans over their efforts to curb abortion rights in a Virginia speech, but his remarks were interrupted repeatedly by hecklers protesting his policies toward Israel.

On the same day that people were voting for a Republican presidential candidate in New Hampshire, Mr Biden and vice-President Kamala Harris – in a bit of counterprogramming – held a rally about abortion, an issue that has proven to drive voters to the polls to oppose conservative measures.

“The person most responsible for taking away this freedom in America is Donald Trump,” Mr Biden said about the former president and current frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination.

The US Supreme Court, with a conservative majority made possible by three justices who joined the court under Mr Trump, struck down in 2022 the Roe v. Wade ruling that guaranteed women’s right to abortion.

The crowd cheered for Mr Biden, but it was not entirely friendly. Multiple interruptions forced Mr Biden to pause or try to speak over shouts of “Ceasefire now,” and “Genocide Joe” over his support for Israel and its assault on Gaza after a surprise attack by Hamas on Israel on 7 October last year.

Israel’s strikes have killed more than 25,000 people, Palestinian health authorities said this week.

Mr Biden’s embrace of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is costing him support among young voters and other opponents of the war who could play a critical role in the 2024 election, especially in swing states such as Michigan.

“They feel deeply,” Mr Biden said after some of the initial protesters were ushered out of the auditorium. As the heckling continued from other participants, Mr Biden kept speaking, and warned the audience that the constant interruptions would continue and had clearly been planned. Supporters in the crowd shouted “Four More Years!” to drown out the heckling.

Mr Biden drew loud applause from the audience when he vowed to veto a national abortion ban if Republicans succeeded in passing one in Congress. His rally came after Virginia Democrats secured majorities in the state legislature after making abortion a central campaign issue last year.

Mr Biden and Ms Harris kicked off events on Monday to highlight Democrats’ policies on abortion and what they describe as Republican threats to such rights, on what would have been the 51st anniversary of Roe v Wade.

Ms Harris, who has helped lead the charge for Mr Biden on abortion rights, told the rally that one in three women of reproductive age live in a state with an abortion ban.

“Let us all agree: one does not have to abandon their faith or deeply held beliefs to agree the government should not be telling her what to do with her body,” Ms Harris said to applause.

She also placed blame on Mr Trump.

“Former President Trump hand-picked … three Supreme Court justices because he intended for them to overturn Roe,” she said.

Most opinion polls, including a Reuters/Ipsos poll in July, show a majority of US voters oppose presidential candidates who favour strict abortion limits. All seven statewide ballot initiatives to enshrine reproductive rights since 2022 have succeeded, including in conservative Ohio, Kansas and Kentucky.

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