January 24, 2024 - 10:00am

Donald Trump not only beat Nikki Haley in New Hampshire last night — he effectively ended her presidential campaign, and therefore the race for the Republican nomination. In a span of just eight days, from the Iowa caucuses to the New Hampshire election, Trump obliterated his opposition within the Republican Party. 

Haley now faces the same bitter choice that confronted Florida Governor Ron DeSantis after his second-place finish in Iowa. Does she quit now, accepting that her campaign has already reached its zenith, or does she fight on, knowing that the future holds only greater defeats and ultimate humiliation?

She resists, but the answer is obvious: Haley will suspend her campaign before the race reaches South Carolina. 

The former United Nations ambassador is in deep denial at the moment, just as DeSantis was in the days after Iowa. She vows to stay in the race, yet she has nothing to look forward to, even though the next serious contest is in the state where Haley served as governor from 2011 to 2017. Under ordinary conditions, against any opponent but Trump, Haley might have reason to think her roots in South Carolina would give her a chance. In any other year, even if she were an underdog, she could hope to do at least respectably on her home turf.

Not this year — polls indicate that if Haley remains in the race, she will lose her home state by a much wider margin than she lost New Hampshire. Trump will trounce her by 30 or 40 points.

DeSantis didn’t want to surrender after Iowa. Seeing that he didn’t have a prayer of beating Haley, let alone Trump, in New Hampshire, the Florida Governor considered making his last stand in South Carolina instead. It’s a more conservative state, and he figured ideology might outweigh Haley’s native-daughter advantage.

This was a daft stratagem, born of desperation. Its outcome would have been a distant third place for DeSantis, after a dismal third-place result in New Hampshire as well. He had nowhere to go but down after Iowa.

With only two candidates still in the race, Haley doesn’t have to fear coming in third. But she’s guaranteed to come last, and by an embarrassingly wide margin even in her home base. Her 43% showing in New Hampshire was made possible by the large number of independent voters who took part in the Republican primary: exit polls indicate as much as 70% of her vote consisted of non-Republicans. She couldn’t pray for numbers like that in South Carolina, or virtually anywhere else.

Why toil for another month on the campaign trail, every day the butt of Trump’s jibes, while calls for her to quit so the party can move on to the main event (the campaign against Joe Biden) only grow louder? By exiting now, she would spare herself weeks of misery, and might earn a tiny amount of credit with Trump, who now holds her political future firmly in his hands.

In 2016, critics claimed that Trump won the nomination because the Republican field was too divided. After Trump went on to win the presidency, detractors continued to insist his success was a fluke. It wasn’t. Despite all the hateful headlines he’s received since 2016, despite the Jan. 6, riot and the scores of criminal charges levelled against him, he still had no difficulty dominating a field narrowed to just two major rivals — and in New Hampshire, just Haley.

Republican voters have embraced Trump knowingly and eagerly. Equally importantly, they have resoundingly repudiated what politicians like Haley stand for — a return to the days when the Republicans were a party of endless wars and globalisation at any cost.

Daniel McCarthy is the editor of Modern Age: A Conservative Review