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Trump and Haley square off in New Hampshire's Republican presidential primary

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

The New Hampshire primary takes place today, and it's now essentially a two-person race on the Republican side.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Yeah. Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, also a former governor of South Carolina, is hoping to mount a strong enough challenge against former President Trump to keep her campaign going. We do have the most partial of partial vote counts imaginable. The northern New Hampshire town of Dixville Notch traditionally counts its ballots first, opening and closing its polls just after midnight, and all six of its votes went to Nikki Haley. Four registered Republicans and two independents voted.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR political correspondent Danielle Kurtzleben was in New Hampshire in the lead-up to the vote. Danielle, so aside from that clean sweep in Dixville Notch, how did Haley make her case in New Hampshire?

DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: Well, she - when I've seen her in New Hampshire, she's been attacking Trump quite a bit, emphasizing that he's the chaos candidate. And she's had a kind of new line of attack in recent days, saying that the political class is lining up behind Trump, essentially saying that given all of the endorsements he's been getting, he's the establishment candidate. But her other big line of attack is electability. She says that she could more easily defeat Biden than Trump. But really, a fact check here - in recent polls, it's not clear, really, whether she's ahead of Biden right now in head-to-heads. Trump right now also polls about even with Biden, maybe slightly ahead of him.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So what's Trump saying?

KURTZLEBEN: Well, he's, first of all, trying to say that Haley is, in fact, not electable. He's also arguing she's not conservative enough, and he's using the fact that New Hampshire independent voters can vote in primaries to make that case. Here he was in a recent speech in the town of Rochester.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: The radical-left Democrats are supporting Nikki for a very simple reason - because they know she's easy to beat.

KURTZLEBEN: But to be totally clear here, Democrats cannot vote in the GOP primary in New Hampshire. Independents and Republicans can.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. And you're there in New Hampshire. So how do Trump supporters there compare to the ones in Iowa?

KURTZLEBEN: Well, Trump voters in New Hampshire were quite similar to the Trump voters in Iowa, which is to say they're super devoted. A lot of them have been with him for years. They just really didn't even consider other candidates this time around. One other difference is that New Hampshire voters tend to be a bit less socially conservative. It's just a less religious state than Iowa.

MARTÍNEZ: What about New Hampshire's undeclared voters, Danielle? How much are they in play for Nikki Haley?

KURTZLEBEN: Very much. I mean, Haley is definitely appealing to independents and more moderate-leaning voters. Here's Danielle Brown. She saw Haley in the town of Hollis last week.

DANIELLE BROWN: What's the choice - Biden or Trump? I mean, if that were the choice, it's a very difficult choice to make. So I'm praying, I'm hoping that it'll be Nikki and Biden. And if that's the case, I would vote for Nikki.

KURTZLEBEN: Now, to be totally clear here, Haley is not a moderate. She is conservative. But some voters do perceive her as moderate because she simply doesn't use as harsh of rhetoric as Trump has. I mean, really, right now, the meaningful divide in the GOP is not moderate-conservative. It's Trump versus anti-Trump.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, Democrats also have a primary today. Biden is not on the ballot, even though he's the president. So there's a write-in campaign. Remind us why that's happening.

KURTZLEBEN: Right. So the Democratic National Committee adopted a primary calendar last year with South Carolina as the first state. But New Hampshire wanted to still be the first in the nation, so they are still holding a primary, but no delegates will be awarded. The victory will be symbolic. But if any candidate, like Marianne Williamson or Minnesota Representative Dean Phillips, does well, you can bet they'll talk about it. So yes, we will see who comes out of that, but there is a write-in in campaign to get Biden to win it.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben, thanks a lot.

KURTZLEBEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Danielle Kurtzleben
Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.