Haley Surrogate Scales Back Expectations For New Hampshire Primary
Although it was a foregone conclusion ahead of the recent Iowa caucuses that former President Donald Trump would be the winner, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley’s distant third-place finish was clearly a disappointment for her campaign.
Nevertheless, supporters looked ahead to the upcoming New Hampshire primary as an opportunity for her to score some much-needed points as she aims to secure her position as the most viable GOP alternative to Trump.
In addition to the Haley camp promoting a selection of favorable polling results from New Hampshire, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu has publicly predicted that she would have a strong showing in his home state.
As Tuesday’s election draws nearer, however, Team Haley appears to be hedging its bets.
During an interview last month, Haley appeared alongside Sununu, who has endorsed her, to discuss her chances among the state’s primary voters.
“If everyone that could vote in the primary comes out and votes … she’s going to win in a landslide,” the governor declared.
At the time, Haley appeared to buy into Sununu’s hype, declaring: “He knows his state better than I do.”
The former South Carolina governor went on to tout the “exciting” reception she had received up to that point from New Hampshire voters.
“It’s exciting,” Haley said. “We can feel it on the ground. We’re going to do this.”
In a subsequent interview, Sununu was even more adamant about Haley’s prospects, noting that if former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie dropped out of the race, which he did shortly thereafter, she could “make up five or 10 points and kind of give Trump that defeat that no one thought was possible in the next few weeks.”
Most recently, however, the Republican governor attempted to set the threshold for success lower than an outright win against Trump.
“We always wanted to have a strong second,” he declared. “That’s the only expectation we ever laid out.”
We asked Sununu about his shifting expectations.
He told @jonkarl that Haley would win in a "landslide." Then, told our Byron Pitts
they "always wanted to have a strong second."
Today, we Sununu, which one is it? pic.twitter.com/IPynOKT13p
— Rachel Scott (@rachelvscott) January 18, 2024
When a reporter pressed him on the apparent shift in messaging, Sununu insisted that he was not “predicting anything” and claimed that Haley had “already exceeded expectations” in her head-to-head performance against the former president.
“You know, a strong second is going to be great,” he said. “That’s wonderful. But now that chance to actually do what no one thought was possible. It’s going to be hard. There’s no question about it. I think she can do it. I think there’s going to be a very high turnout to drive that, but we’ll see on Tuesday.”