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As Nikki Haley polls well, there's talk she could upset Trump In New Hampshire


So here we are, the morning after the Iowa caucuses. We're in Studio 31 here in Washington, D.C. - my colleague Michel Martin off to my left, just across the table. NPR's Tamara Keith, who's covered many an election, is joining us this morning. Tam, welcome.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Good to be with you.

INSKEEP: And stick with us, because we're now going to reach out to New Hampshire. Andrew Smith is a political science professor there. He is director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center and is in Durham, N.H., where the temperature is what, sir?

ANDREW SMITH: Chilly and snowing.

INSKEEP: (Laughter) Chilly - I feel like that might be a little bit of an understatement, but it's how it is in New Hampshire. Let's talk about the results from Iowa. Of course, Donald Trump received more than half the vote, dominated - Ron DeSantis in second, Nikki Haley a close third. Now they move on to other states, and they go to yours. How do these particular candidates match up with the New Hampshire electorate?

SMITH: Well, I think that Trump is pretty good. He won in 2016 here with 35% of the vote. Our polling is showing him pretty consistently around 40% of the vote throughout the last year. Not as high as you see in Iowa, not as high as he's been polling in South Carolina, which is - really makes us the only state where somebody not named Trump has a chance of winning.

INSKEEP: And let's talk about DeSantis and Haley. How did they match up with the electorate?

SMITH: Well, we've seen that Haley has been doing extremely well over the last couple of weeks. Her polling numbers have gone up in our polls to the point where she's only seven points behind Trump. And she's doing well among those people here - they're registered undeclared. We unfortunately call them independents. She's winning among that group, losing among registered Republicans, though, so she's got an opportunity to do well here. But it really depends on how those undeclared voters get out and vote. If their turnout is high, she's got a chance. If they stay home, not really too much.

INSKEEP: OK, these undeclared voters are important for a reason we're about to get to. But first, I want to follow up on something you said. Why is it unfortunate that people call them independents?

SMITH: Well, they're really not. About a third of them are either registered - they're just Republicans in everything but registration, about a third are really Democrats in everything but registration, and largely those people will stay home. And then the true independents largely don't vote in presidential primaries. They're the kind of people that maybe only vote in a presidential general election, not in a primary.

INSKEEP: But there's a really interesting thing about these undeclared voters in New Hampshire. And I just went to the secretary of state of New Hampshire's website to make sure the rules haven't changed. As I understand it, an undeclared voter, even if they lean one way or the other, they can pick which primary they want to be in, they want to vote in, and there's not really a Democratic contest, which means they can choose to drift over to the Republican contest. How, if at all, might that affect the results that we see in a week?

SMITH: Well, that's really the one big wild card out here - how they're going to come out - if they come out and vote and how - where they're going to go. If they do come out and vote, our polling is showing strongly that they're going to support Haley. We're seeing that among registered - undeclared voters, Haley was leading Trump by 43 to 17. So if they come out strongly, and by that I mean getting up over 40% to 45% of the electorate, she's got a chance of winning. But if they don't turn out - and historically, undeclared voters don't turn out at the same rate as do registered voters - if they don't come out, Trump will likely win.

INSKEEP: OK, let's bring Tamara Keith into the conversation as we continue here. And Tam, as you follow the way that the different candidates have been trying to appeal to the New Hampshire electorate, is there anything distinct about what Nikki Haley or Ron DeSantis or Donald Trump would say in New Hampshire, as opposed to anywhere else?

KEITH: Well, when Nikki Haley was campaigning in New Hampshire, she essentially said, New Hampshire corrects what Iowa does.

INSKEEP: Ah - which people considered an insult in Iowa. But I guess it's different in New Hampshire.

KEITH: But you play to the crowd that you're speaking in front of. What I will say is that looking at data from ad impact, Nikki Haley and her allied super PACs have vastly outspent everyone else on television ads. In New Hampshire, her - Team Haley has spent nearly $30 million in ads. Compare that to Ron DeSantis - only 8 million. His super PACs haven't played in the state at all. And then you have former President Trump at 14 million so far. So she is really putting it all on the line in New Hampshire. But what you see is that former President Trump now has rallies scheduled basically every single day this week in New Hampshire, other than the day of his mother-in-law's funeral.

INSKEEP: Oh, well, let's talk about that with another voice who's on the line. Our political correspondent Susan Davis is on with us this morning. Sue, good morning.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Hey, Steve. Good morning.

INSKEEP: So let's just talk about what we just heard from Tamara Keith there. It sounds like the former president feels he needs to take New Hampshire quite seriously.

DAVIS: He certainly does. But the trajectory of the race still strongly bends toward Donald Trump. And I think that the reality for Haley going into New Hampshire is the longer that both she and Ron DeSantis remain in in this race - it basically just divvies up the anti-Trump vote. Trump won 51% in Iowa, but as Haley's campaign noted, it shows you that half of the Republican electorate is still looking for an alternative. But as long as there's not one other alternative, it's hard to see how either one of these candidates are going to be able to edge out Donald Trump. They have a decision to make. And there's no indication - based off of all of the effort Haley's put in New Hampshire, she's interested in getting out of this race, certainly not before the contest in her home state of South Carolina. And for Ron DeSantis going into New Hampshire...


DAVIS: ...To see how well he performs - but he seems pretty committed to staying in this race, at least as long as the money will support him.

INSKEEP: Tamara Keith.

KEITH: Yeah, looking at entrance polls from AP and other data, Nikki Haley voters don't look like Trump voters. They don't look like DeSantis voters. But DeSantis voters look a lot like Trump voters. And so if DeSantis were to get out of the race, it's not clear how much that would actually help Nikki Haley. Her - she very likely has a ceiling. The longer she becomes the anti-Trump candidate, the lower her approval among Republicans goes. And New Hampshire is this unique state in this primary calendar where a candidate who is seen as the anti-Trump candidate has a better chance because of these independent voters.

INSKEEP: Even aside from that, I could have imagined a scenario, if DeSantis was clobbered in Iowa, that he might have dropped out and there would be a one-on-one race. But that seems very unlikely now.

KEITH: Right. Because he is moving on...

INSKEEP: So he says.

KEITH: ...Moving on to South Carolina - literally going to South Carolina, then up to New Hampshire, then probably back down again.

INSKEEP: OK. All right. That's NPR's Tamara Keith and Susan Davis - thanks to you both.

DAVIS: Thanks, Steve.


INSKEEP: And we'll be hearing more from both of you. We also were talking with Andrew Smith, who heads the University of New Hampshire Survey Center. Thank you to you.

SMITH: Thank you.

INSKEEP: And we'll continue our coverage here this morning, on this morning after the Iowa caucuses. Donald Trump dominated with about 51% of the vote in Iowa. Ron DeSantis was second - almost 30 points behind, at around 21%. Nikki Haley had 19%. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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