Trump hopes for knock-out as polls close in New Hampshire

Manchester (United States) (AFP) – Polls closed Tuesday in the New Hampshire primary, with Donald Trump hoping to demolish his rival for the Republican presidential nomination and effectively begin an extraordinary battle for a second White House term.

Amid strong turnout ahead of last polls closing at 8:00 pm (0100 GMT), former UN ambassador Nikki Haley sought a major upset against Trump’s growing momentum to be Republican standard bearer in November.

“There was a really strong vote in New Hampshire in the Republican primary,” David Scanlan, the official responsible for organizing the vote, told CNN, reporting that some towns required extra ballots.

Analysts said that big turnout could favor Trump’s sole remaining challenger on the right.

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

And while Haley has questioned his mental fitness and warned another Trump presidency would bring “chaos,” polls indicate her efforts will be little more than a road bump for Trump in New Hampshire.

“If you want a losing candidate who puts America last, vote for Nikki Haley,” Trump said in his final pitch at a rally in Laconia village.

“But if you want a president who puts America first every single time, you’re going to vote for Donald J. Trump.”

New Hampshire, in the northeast United States, is certainly more Haley-friendly than states she will subsequently face, and continuing into February will be a tough sell without a win or at least a narrow loss.

Voter Jay Matthews, 70, from Plymouth, predicted a close contest, noting the strong support for Haley from New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu.

“She’s going to give (Trump) a good run – she might even win it,” he said.

Haley – aged 52 to Trump’s 77 – sounded defiant Tuesday as voting started, telling Fox News that this was not a “coronation” for Trump.

“This is a democracy,” she said.

“We are going to have a strong showing today here in New Hampshire.”

Two person race

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 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.

Trump has done 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 Trump’s complaints has been his false claim that Democrats are allowed to vote in the Republican contest.

However, independents are allowed to vote and Haley hopes they will revolt against Trump and see 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.

Biden campaigns on abortion

New Hampshire Democrats also voted for their standard-bearer Tuesday, defying a national party order to hold the primary later.

Biden did not file candidate paperwork, but supporters have pledged to write his name in, hoping that even without campaigning he will convincingly beat Minnesota congressman Dean Phillips and self-help author Marianne Williamson.

Biden 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.