4 min read

Can we say “presumptive” yet?

The 2024 general election kicked off with a whimper last night.
Can we say “presumptive” yet?
NBC News screengrab

Good morning! It’s Wednesday, January 24, 2023. Election Day is 286 days away. If this newsletter was forwarded to you, subscribe here. If you want to contribute to support my work, donate here.

Donald Trump made history last night, becoming the first non-incumbent Republican presidential candidate to win both the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary.

His New Hampshire victory was not enormous: with 91% of the vote in, he is currently leading Nikki Haley by about 11 points, 54.5% to 43.2%. That’s a smaller margin of victory than polls predicted he’d have (the final polling average was Trump +19) and smaller than his sweeping win in Iowa (where he won by 30 points).

But it was a victory nonetheless, and it came in a state where the political composition was highly favorable to Haley — a state she needed to win. Yet, in remarks after her loss was announced, Haley insisted that she would stay in the race:

“You’ve all heard the chatter among the political class. They’re falling all over themselves saying this race is over. Well, I have news for all of them: New Hampshire is first in the nation. It is not the last in the nation. 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.”

The only problem for Haley: none of those states look particularly primed to hand her a victory. She has exactly one month to go until the next primary, on February 24 in South Carolina, where she is currently 30 points down in the polls. If she can’t win in conservative Iowa, can’t win in moderate New Hampshire, and is so far behind in South Carolina — where she was born, raised, and twice elected governor — it’s hard to see how she has any conceivable path to the Republican nomination.

Last night, according to network exit polls, 6% of voters in the New Hampshire GOP primary identified as Democrat, 43% identified as Independent, and 51% identified as Republican. Haley won 88% of the Democrats and 60% of the Independents — but only 25% of the Republicans. Haley accused pundits of trying to organize a “coronation” for Trump yesterday, but the reality is that you can’t become the Republican nominee with the support of only 25% of Republican voters.

“Just a little note to Nikki,” Trump said in his victory speech last night, as he angrily denounced Haley for staying in the race. “She’s not going to win.”

One GOP leader, Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), has already referred to Trump as the party’s “presumptive nominee”; expect more to follow in the coming days. Several other top Republicans released statements last night making clear they see the primary as over:

“I have seen enough. To beat Biden, Republicans need to unite around a single candidate, and it’s clear that President Trump is Republican voters’ choice.” — Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)
“It’s now past time for the Republican Party to unite around President Trump so we can focus on ending the disastrous Biden presidency and growing our majority in Congress.” — House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA)
“It’s time for Republicans to unite around President Donald Trump and make Joe Biden a one-term President.” — Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE)

Even Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, who is supposed to stay neutral in her role as party chief, suggested last night that it was time for Haley to bow out:

“I’m looking at the map and the path going forward and I don’t see it for Nikki Haley. I think she’s run a great campaign, but I do think there’s a message that’s coming out from the voters which is very clear: We need to unite around our eventual nominee, which is going to be Donald Trump.”

For their part, Democrats also signaled last night that they are adjusting their gaze towards November. After easily dispatching rival Dean Phillips in the New Hampshire primary — as a write-in candidate no less — the Biden campaign began selling its first general election merch and announced that two of his top advisers, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon and Mike Donilon, will move to the campaign.

Democrats had been complaining for months that all of Biden’s close confidants were clustered at the White House; sending two to the Wilmington HQ is a sign that Biden’s orbit is now transitioning to campaign mode.

“It is now clear that Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee,” Biden said in a statement last night after New Hampshire. “And my message to the country is the stakes could not be higher.”

So begins the 2024 general election, the great Trump-Biden rematch no one is looking forward to.

More news to know.

How Trial Delays Could Pay Off for Trump / NYT

Federal appeals court denies Trump request to toss gag order in DC election case / Fox

Gaetz House ethics probe picks up steam with new witnesses contacted / ABC

Turkey approves Sweden's NATO membership bid after 20-month delay / Reuters

Austin delivers virtual remarks in first public appearance since hospitalization / CNN

The day ahead.

White House: President Biden will address the United Auto Workers conference in Washington, where he is expected to belatedly receive the group’s endorsement. Vice President Harris will attend a campaign fundraiser in Manhattan Beach, California.

Congress: The Senate will vote on two district judge confirmations. Senate Republicans will hold a special conference meeting to discuss the forthcoming Ukraine/Israel/border security deal. The House is out for the week.

Supreme Court: No oral arguments are scheduled this week.

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