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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Trump races toward 2024 Biden rematch after New Hampshire win

Republican presidential hopeful and former President Donald Trump gestures during an election night party in Nashua, N.H., on Tuesday.  (Timothy A. Clary/AFP/GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/TNS)
By Jordan Fabian Bloomberg News Bloomberg News

Donald Trump put himself on the cusp of clinching the Republican presidential nomination after New Hampshire voters handed him a decisive victory in Tuesday’s primary.

Trump comfortably dispatched his only remaining challenger, former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, a little more than a week after his romp in the Iowa caucuses forced his other main rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, out of the race. News organizations called the race for Trump almost immediately after polls closed at 8 p.m. Eastern time.

The back-to-back wins put Trump on track to deliver a knockout blow to Haley next month in her home state of South Carolina and turn his attention to an all-but-certain rematch with President Joe Biden. Haley – who notched 43.2% of GOP primary votes, compared to Trump’s 54.5%, with 91% of ballots counted – will face tough questions about the viability of her campaign, since there’s little evidence she has significant support in the next early-voting states.

Haley vowed on Tuesday to stay in the race, but her defeat likely marked the final stand of Never Trump Republican operatives, donors and elected officials who have sought to move the party away from its 77-year-old standard bearer and back toward its traditional conservative roots. There has been little appetite for that among Republican voters, who crave Trump’s politics of grievance and populist zeal.

With Haley having nearly no path forward, Republicans effectively have passed up their chance to turn the page on the most polarizing figure in American politics, who is facing four criminal indictments and lost the last presidential contest.

“No one would like to see the Republican Party shift back in another direction more than I do. But it’s not going to happen,” Jennifer Horn, the former New Hampshire GOP chairwoman, who has since left the party, told Bloomberg News on Monday.

The New Hampshire outcome makes even more inevitable a scenario that many political and business elites have begrudged: Trump and Biden are due to face off for the presidency in November. The result will determine the shape of America’s democracy at home and its role in the world.

Trump assailed Haley during a victory speech at his Nashua, New Hampshire, headquarters, appearing annoyed that she claimed a strong performance. Trump made fun of her dress and called her an “impostor” who is “not going to win.” He said would beat Biden in the general election, repeating his false claims he also defeated the president in 2020.

“We are going to win this,” Trump said. “The reason we have support is because they are so bad at what they’re doing and so evil and they’re destroying our country.”

Some Wall Street titans dismayed at the possibility of a second term for Trump or Biden have started to warm to the prospect of the Republican’s return. JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon said last week Trump was “kind of right” about certain issues and accused Democrats of “scapegoating” his supporters.

In remarks to her supporters, Haley repeated attacks on Trump’s age, mental acuity and ability to defeat Biden in November.

“This race is far from over. There are dozens of states left to go. And the next one is my sweet state of South Carolina,” Haley said in Concord, New Hampshire.

Americans for Prosperity Action, a group backed by billionaire Charles Koch, said after the New Hampshire race was called that it would continue to back Haley in South Carolina even as it acknowledged “an uphill battle.”

In recent days, there were signs the GOP is coalescing around Trump. His closing rally in Monday night in Laconia, New Hampshire, featured defeated primary opponents Tim Scott, Doug Burgum and Vivek Ramaswamy. DeSantis endorsed Trump on Sunday after suspending his campaign. Trump also picked up endorsements from key South Carolina officials.

“I say the general election begins tonight,” Ramaswamy said onstage at Trump’s victory celebration.

Trump’s victory came from a broad coalition of Republicans, according to a poll of voters in the GOP primary conducted by AP VoteCast. He won in urban, suburban and rural areas. There was no discernible gender gap. And he won among every age group, with the highest support coming from the youngest and the oldest voters.

Haley won only among liberals, moderates and white voters with a college degree.

Trump’s emergence as the clear frontrunner gives Biden a chance to drive home his argument that the race is a choice between him and the Republican, rather than a referendum on his presidency. Biden will need voters who have not tuned in to the campaign to start paying attention for that approach to pay off.

“He’s betting you’re going to stop caring,” Biden said of Trump Tuesday at a Virginia abortion-rights rally meant to serve as counter-programming to the Republican race in New Hampshire. “I’m betting he’s wrong.”

New Hampshire Democrats also held a primary race on Tuesday, but it was unsanctioned by the national party and Biden did not participate nor did he appear on the ballot. The president had decided to move Democrats’ first nominating contest to South Carolina. Without Biden, long-shot candidates Representative Dean Phillips and author Marianne Williamson campaigned for a symbolic victory.

Biden won the primary by large margins anyway thanks to a write-in campaign, blunting Phillips’ calls on the 81-year-old president to pass the torch to a new generation.