The race for second: where the GOP hopefuls’ NH campaigns are post-Iowa

The race for second: where the GOP hopefuls’ NH campaigns are post-Iowa

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump takes the stage at a caucus night party in Des Moines, Iowa, Monday, Jan. 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

By Colin Booth

January 16, 2024

After Donald Trump’s victory in the Iowa caucus on Monday, the eyes of the nation are turning to New Hampshire’s First-in-the-Nation primary. The ugly race for second place is taking new shape in the Granite State and political players on the ground are shifting their message to reflect the new political calculus following Trump’s dominant performance Monday night.

Every poll out of the state indicates that Trump will win the Republican primary in New Hampshire, but that hasn’t stopped other candidates and their staff on the ground in the state from making big promises, despite some already botched predictions.

Big Talk

Prior to the Iowa caucus, New Hampshire staff for the Ron DeSantis campaign made some lofty predictions about his performance.

Chris Maidment, New Hampshire political director for the DeSantis-aligned Never Back Down PAC made a straightforward prediction one just five days out from the Iowa caucus: “Ron DeSantis will win Iowa”.

Maidment is a former staffer with the political arm of the Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity, but  had a messy fallout with that organization over its decision to endorse Nikki Haley.

NH Republican House Majority Leader Jason Osborne, an early high-profile DeSantis supporter, also predicted a DeSantis win at the Iowa caucuses Monday night, and has predicted a DeSantis win in the Granite State’s Jan. 23 primary.

Trump won Iowa by 30 points, and polls have shown DeSantis hovering in the mid-single digits in New Hampshire, while the race between Haley and Trump has tightened substantially. Notably, the DeSantis campaign is also going into the first-in-the-nation primary with no scheduled ad buys, having canceled their spending in December.

RELATED: Urgent need for poll workers in key cities just days before New Hampshire primary

Goal Post Shifting

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, maybe the highest-profile endorsement Nikki Haley has earned this cycle, has had to go on Haley clean up duty before, but this time he’s doing it for himself.

After a bold prediction that Haley would “shock everyone in Iowa with a strong second” place finish, and then “shatter the presumptions” in New Hampshire, Sununu is now tempering expectations, saying over the weekend that Haley would come in second “at least here in New Hampshire.”

Elsewhere, Fred Doucette, a Trump NH 2016 and 2020 co-chair, endorsed  Vivek Ramaswamy this cycle But with Vivek dropping out of the race on Monday night, Doucette is firmly back on team Trump.

On the Dem Side

On the Democratic side of the fence, Dean Phillips has tempered his own expectations of what would constitute success as he runs a primary campaign against President Joe Biden. Phillips’ campaign originally set expectations in the 40% range, but the candidate himself said over the weekend somewhere in the 20% range would be a sign of strength.

Phillips is spending part of this week campaigning with Andrew Yang in Manchester. They’re talking about AI for some reason.

The Biden Write-In campaign was quick to release a memo answering some frequently asked questions on results, polling on the democratic side, and communicating the reporting challenges of an all write-in campaign.

Biden of course will not be on the New Hampshire primary ballot due to an ongoing conflict between the state and the DNC over the order of the primary calendar.

The Write-In campaign is welcoming more high-profile surrogates back to the state this week, including Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and regular Granite State visitor California Congressman Ro Khanna.

Marianne Williamson, another primary challenger of Biden’s, is going up on TV for the first time this cycle, airing on CNN and MSNBC in New Hampshire.


  • Colin Booth

    Based in Epsom, Colin Booth is Granite Post's political correspondent. A Granite State native and veteran political professional with a deep background in journalism, he's worked on campaigns and programs in battleground states across the country, ranging from New Hampshire, Texas, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C.

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