As former President Donald Trump convincingly beat well-funded and organized Nikki Haley by nearly 12 points with 91% of the New Hampshire vote results declared, we thought we'd turn to Bobby Bare's cult classic for what Haley's supporters may have been thinking.
The hulk of a man with a beer in his hand, he looked like a drunk old fool
And I knew if I hit him right why, I could knock him off of that stool
But everybody they said, watch out, hey, that's the Tiger Man McCool
He's had a whole lotta fights, and he's always come out a winner
Yeah, he's a winner.
For all the vices Trump is supposed to have, drinking is not one of them, so the comparison to Tiger Man McCool may not make sense. But by trouncing Haley, Trump became the only Republican in history (since the first-in-the-nation open primary became New Hampshire's signature brand in 1976, the same year Bare released his classic) to win back-to-back contests in Iowa and the Granite State.
There wasn't a single thing that Nikki Haley did not do. Backed by the deep pockets of a never-ending stream of Never Trumpers, media titans, and TDS enthusiasts, she outspent Trump by orders of magnitude. She traversed the state, holding town halls and public events. At nearly every appearance, the state's governor, Chris Sununu, introduced her. In so doing, Sununu liked to say he was a Sherpa, ridiculing a whole tribe of talented mountaineers in the hopes that the spotlight shone on Haley. Powerful governors control every lever of a state's party machine, and Sununu sought to go all in on Haley.
The former South Carolina governor was so arrogant with all the support that she had enlisted that the moment the race shifted from Iowa, where Haley came in a disappointing third, she declared that she would only walk on New Hampshire's prestigious WMUR-ABC debate stage if Trump or Biden were also to appear. And the media was so behind Haley that WMUR extended a deadline for Trump to accept the station's offer. [They spared Biden the invitation, given that Biden conceitedly eschewed the Granite State altogether in favor of South Carolina as the Democratic Party's first-in-the-nation primary, as punishment to the state's voters giving him a terrible 5th-place finish in 2020].
Trump has not participated in a single Republican debate thus far, which was a point of contention for his 14 opponents, a dozen of whom have dropped out. He held parallel media events to coincide with those debates and found that ratings for his appearances were far higher. His strategy worked brilliantly when he notched up victories in a record 98 of 99 Iowa counties, with the lone county that went for Haley by one vote energized by Democrat party switchers. Why in the world would Trump debate Haley in New Hampshire? The debate was canceled altogether.
Haley campaigned mainly on appealing to New Hampshire Independents and Democrats. On illegal immigration, she had said at an Aspen Institute conference in 2015:
Let's keep in mind. These people that are wanting to come here, they want to come for a better life too. They have kids, too. They have a heart, too. We don't need to be disrespectful. We don't need to talk about them as criminals. They're not. They are families that want a better life, and they're desperate to get here.
With immigration completely changing America's fabric in the last three years, as seven million migrants have dispersed all over the country, Haley never walked back her 2015 comments.
Haley's soundbite seemed surreal when paired with news from the United States Supreme Court. By a 5-4 margin, the Court ruled that federal immigration agents could remove the razor wire that Texas state officials had set up along some sections of the U.S.-Mexico border to discourage migrants from entering the country unlawfully. The Biden administration had fought Texas all the way to the Supreme Court to elicit this victory when all the state was doing was protecting its sovereign space from being inundated by migrants. To millions of Republicans who shook their heads in profound disbelief at the decision, their suspicion that Haley is more like a Joe Biden Democrat was now sealed.
If Haley's loss made her think about dropping out, she told her supporters she would do the opposite:
This race is far from over. There are dozens of states left to go. And the next one is my sweet state of South Carolina.
There are several problems with Haley's egotistic stance. The latest RealClearPolitics average has Trump leading Haley by 30 points in her home state, with DeSantis in the race. A CNN poll in New Hampshire showed that after DeSantis dropped out, his supporters were breaking 60-40 to Trump. If the same ratio holds, Trump could top 60% of the vote in the Palmetto State, delivering a 20-point victory.
Haley had always counted on the contest being reduced to a two-person choice, hoping to win 30-40% in each state and relying on the media to write puff pieces showing that she continues to be competitive with Trump. With a stacked primary calendar following South Carolina, culminating in 16 states voting on Super Tuesday (half of them deep-red), Haley could even win a couple of blue-leaning states (California, Colorado, Michigan, and Maine).
But Bobby Bare's hypnotic lyrics to close out his song come to mind:
So I stumbled from that barroom not so tall and not so proud
And behind me, I still hear the hoots of laughter of the crowd
But my eyes still see, and my nose still works, and my teeth're still in my mouth
And you know, I guess that makes me the winner
The 2024 GOP race, barring a miracle, is over. Get ready for a Biden-Trump rematch in the general.