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US elections: Trump closes in on Biden rematch after New Hampshire win

US elections: Trump closes in on Biden rematch after New Hampshire win
24 Jan 2024 09:33

MANCHESTER (AFP)

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

With votes around 60 percent counted, Trump's winning margin hovered at around 11 percentage points, but his sole remaining challenger Nikki Haley vowed to fight on.

In a rambling victory speech Trump, 77, attacked Haley and said that when the primary contest reaches her home state of South Carolina, "we're going to win easily."

Trump's address was loaded with his trademark ominous warnings about immigration as he continued to lie about winning the 2020 election.

In her own speech, Haley insisted that the race was "far from over" and told supporters that Democrats actually want to run against her former boss, due to his record of sowing "chaos."

"They know Trump is the only Republican in the country who Joe Biden can defeat," Haley, 52, said.

Despite now adding New Hampshire to his previous easy victory in Iowa -- and looking near unstoppable to become the Republican candidate in November -- Trump kept to his hard-right messaging, with no hint of reaching out to the more moderate voters who supported Hailey.

At one point swearing on primetime TV, Trump said the United States was a "failing country" and claimed that undocumented migrants were coming from psychiatric hospitals and prisons, and "killing our country."

Biden responded saying "it is now clear that Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee."

"And my message to the country is the stakes could not be higher. Our Democracy. Our personal freedoms -- from the right to choose to the right to vote," Biden said in a statement.

Two horse race

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

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 Haley repeatedly questioned Trump's mental fitness, her efforts in New Hampshire were not expected to create much more than a speed bump for the populist right-winger's surge to November.

"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 Trump's transition team, told AFP.

New Hampshire was markedly more Haley-friendly than the states she will subsequently face, should she stay in the race, and continuing into February and South Carolina will be a tough sell.

Dim outlook for Haley

Trump won a crushing victory in the first Republican contest in Iowa last week, with Haley a distant third.
What was once a crowded field of 14 candidates then narrowed to a one-on-one matchup 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.

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 the kind of momentum that supporters believe will sweep him back into the White House.

"I think it's gonna be a wipeout for Biden. He's gone," said Luis Ferre, 72, who traveled from New York to be at Trump's election night party at a Nashua hotel.

Haley spent the week hammering the message, backed by polling, that most Americans do not want to see a Trump-Biden rematch. That, however, may not be enough to prevent the inevitable.

"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.

Good night for Biden

Biden, meanwhile, won an unofficial Democratic primary in New Hampshire, giving him a symbolic boost.
The president marked the day by campaigning alongside Vice President Kamala Harris in Virginia at a rally for abortion rights.

With Trump touting his role in the ending of the constitutional right to abortion, Biden told an enthusiastic crowd that the Republican was "hell-bent" on further restrictions.

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