It is now Friday morning, and a full round of post-Iowa polls in New Hampshire have been released. Governor/Ambassador Nikki Haley did not receive the bump out of Iowa she was hoping for. A combination of an anemic showing in the caucuses (third place), a solid majority for former President Donald Trump, and the stubborn unwillingness of Governor Ron DeSantis to suspend his doomed campaign has left her with a struggle she perhaps did not anticipate. Former Governor Chris Christie’s leaving the race has boosted her numbers. However, the post-Iowa departure of businessman Vivek Ramaswamy from the race has helped Mr. Trump and placed him back in the 50+% comfort zone.

Right now, Mr. Trump stands just above 50%, solid in a two-race race. Mr. DeSantis has been reduced to only 5%-6% in the Granite State. But Ms. Haley has not cracked 40% yet, which is a problem for her with just a few days to go. She does have the strong support of the very popular Governor Chris Sununu, no small potatoes in New Hampshire, a robust network that elected generations of Sununus as well as other comers who have been beneficiaries of the family endorsement. She also does exceptionally well among independents, and that is the number to watch in the pre-primary polls. If more independents show up to vote on Tuesday – as they did in 2000, enabling a John McCain victory over George W. Bush – look for the race to turn in her favor.

But now, her numbers are flat, in the high 30s, and not budging. No matter the talk of a solid second place, there is no such thing as a two-race. That is a loss in everyone else’s playbook – just as there was no solid third place in Iowa this time.

Stated simply, Ms. Haley has to win in New Hampshire. It is not impossible, but it is not looking very likely. Her conundrum is that she has to draw a sharp distinction between herself and Mr. Trump, and that means taking on his criminal trials, his behavior, his legal manipulation and refusal to abide by laws and rules, and his leadership role in the January 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection. She cannot go that far without alienating the MAGA base. So, she won’t. But weak arguments about his “chaos” and the need for a new generation are insufficient.

So, she finds herself in a box. New Hampshire primary voters are an independent and feisty sort. Historically, they suggest a profile different from the MAGA profile. There could be a surprise. But as of this writing, I don’t see any evidence of a Haley surprise in the works.

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