Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Opinion | New Hampshire shows the problem with Trump

CW / Elijah McWhorter
The Republican Primary Debate was hosted in Tuscaloosa on Dec. 6, 2023.

On Tuesday, the people of New Hampshire chose whom they want to see on the presidential ballot in November. Though official for the GOP, the primary was an unofficial one for Democrats, who changed the first primary state to South Carolina to start with a more diverse set of voters. 

In protest, the New Hampshire Democratic Party still held the primary without the backing of the Democratic National Committee. President Joe Biden refused to register for the primary, and his name did not appear on the ballot. 

Even still, Biden won by over 40 points thanks to a successful write-in campaign. 

Former President Donald Trump scraped by with just over half of the Republican votes, yet still beat second-place Nikki Haley, the former United Nations ambassador and governor of South Carolina, by just over 11 points. 

In New Hampshire, which has an open primary, independents hold sway over the total delegates each candidate gets toward their nomination. Independents, who are less likely than Republicans to favor Trump, likely cast their vote for Haley, his only real opponent. 

The Trump campaign was hoping for a blowout, and Haley sought an outright upset that could have shaken the GOP’s confidence in Trump’s ability to win. Neither candidate got what they wanted, and the primary instead cast light on the deep divisions within the Republican Party. If not acted upon, this division could cost the party a winnable election. 

Although Haley didn’t get her desired upset, she still came far closer to beating Trump than major polls suggested. It’s clear that, while Trump is still the presumptive nominee, he needs to regain the favor of a large portion of the GOP that wants to move past the populist era he ushered in. 

Those who want to move past Trump may be looking at the recent losses that have come with him as the face of the Republican Party, in both the 2020 presidential and 2022 congressional elections, when a promised “red wave” never surfaced. They also may be hoping to move past a deeply controversial figure who is constantly plagued by court cases and has a reputation built on insults and name-calling. 

The solution is almost as unlikely as it is obvious. Regaining the votes of the moderate Republicans who are wary of the former president will require Trump to pick a less explosive alternative as his vice presidential nominee. And who better to choose than a popular former United Nations ambassador who defeated a cast of (mostly) politically experienced, male candidates vying to replace Trump as the Republican nominee?

Choosing Haley as his VP would help bring the GOP back together with Trump as the face of the populists and Haley representing those who want a less inflammatory brand of leadership.  

But her unlikely recent rise in the polls means a joint ticket is almost completely out of the picture. Following the close result in the New Hampshire primary, she asserted on X (formerly known as Twitter) that she’s “not going anywhere” and will continue her campaign in South Carolina. To compete with Trump, she’s begun questioning his mental competence, pointing to slips like when he confused her and Nancy Pelosi when commenting on her role in the Jan. 6 riot.

Moreover, Trump recently dismissed the notion of picking Haley as his VP, saying he doesn’t believe her to be presidential material. He’s begun using her birth name, Nimarata, as a route to attack her based on her ethnicity. 

Beyond the primary, Trump’s choice to use her birth name rather than her preferred name reflects his attempt to build a voter base from white Americans. By using her name to contrast her from himself, Trump indirectly asserts that not having a Western name renders Haley un-American. In a political contest that he is bound to win, such tactics are racist and distasteful.

The two are likely too far divided to align themselves as one ticket for the GOP at this point. Without that alliance, the party is vulnerable to losing moderate and independent voters. And with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. running as a more physically fit independent candidate, those voters may seek him as an alternative to voting for the former president. 

The potential of Kennedy’s impact in the general election is yet uncertain, but he’s taking his voice to younger voters. He visited the University this past week to continue swaying younger voters, who are becoming increasingly concerned with Biden’s cognitive state and Trump’s electability. Recent polls have shown that Kennedy holds a lead over both Biden and Trump among younger voters in key battleground states, and he believes that he can use that to find a route to victory. 

Unlikely as that is, Kennedy will still draw voters from both parties. But given the results of the New Hampshire primary, it seems Biden has a far more commanding control over his party than Trump does over his. If Trump is unable to reverse that trend, he may be able to retain fewer potential voters than Biden, costing him the election. 

At present, Trump has a lead over Biden in most general polls. But to win this November, he needs to produce a turnout similar to 2020, when both candidates drew out record numbers in a closely divided contest. To draw out that many voters again — more if he wants to beat the incumbent — he needs to reunify the GOP. As of now, without Haley by his side, his chances of doing so are slim.

More to Discover