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Haley’s path gets harder — not easier — after New Hampshire

First Read is your briefing from the NBC News Political Unit on the day’s most important political stories and why they matter.
Republican presidential candidate former Nikki Haley congratulates Trump on win but says ‘we’re just getting started' at her primary night rally at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord, New Hampshire.
Republican presidential candidate former Nikki Haley congratulates Trump on win but says ‘we’re just getting started' at her primary night rally at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord, New Hampshire.Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Happening this Wednesday: Donald Trump defeats Nikki Haley in New Hampshire, 55% to 43% (with 91% of vote in)… Haley vows to remain in GOP contest: “This race is far from over”… Haley holds evening rally in South Carolina and launches new TV ads in the state… And President Biden wins unsanctioned Dem primary in New Hampshire — as a write-in candidate — as he shakes up his presidential campaign.

But FIRST… Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley is now taking her campaign to South Carolina.  

Haley’s problem is that her path gets harder — not easier — after last night’s New Hampshire primary.  

In New Hampshire, 51% of GOP primary identified as Republican, versus a combined 49% who said they were independent (43%) or a Democrat (6%), according to the NBC News exit poll. 

Now compare that with the 82% of self-identified Republicans who competed at last week’s Iowa caucuses. 

Also compare that with the upcoming South Carolina and Super Tuesday contests. The only states that have a Republican party ID close to New Hampshire’s last night — per the 2016 GOP primary exit polls — are Massachusetts and Vermont. 

Most of the other states showed a Republican party ID in the 60s and 70s back in 2016.

Now it’s possible that GOP party identification is lower in those states than what happened in 2016 (due to Democrats not having a competitive presidential race). We saw that play out in New Hampshire — where Republican party ID was 55% in 2016 vs. 51% last night. 

Then again, Haley still lost in New Hampshire by double digits. 

Headline of the day

The number of the day is … 1

That’s how many non-incumbent Republican presidential candidates have won the nominating contests in both Iowa and New Hampshire the same year, following Trump’s win in the Granite State on Tuesday night. Until Trump, non-incumbent Republicans had won either one of the two early-state contests, but never both. There is some precedent for winning both contests on the Democratic side — John Kerry won both Iowa and New Hampshire in 2004, as did Al Gore in 2000.  

Trump’s victory on Tuesday was driven by his wide margins of victory among core Republican voters who made up larger shares of the electorate, according to the NBC News exit poll. Those included self-described Republicans and conservatives, and groups that make up the GOP base, including voters without college degrees, those with lower incomes, older voters and evangelicals. 

Trump also led Haley on the two issues that GOP voters said were most important: the economy and immigration. While Haley bested Trump among voters who prioritized foreign policy and abortion, those voters made up smaller shares of the electorate. 

Eyes on November: Results in key towns that explain New Hampshire’s primary

Heading into election night on Tuesday, we broke down five key towns to watch to get a sense of what was happening in the Granite State beyond the topline results: Salem, Derry, Concord, Lebanon and Manchester.

Here’s what went down in each, for the towns that reported a significant enough share of the vote by Wednesday morning:

Salem: This town on the state’s southern border with Massachusetts was one the most populated towns where Trump had his best performance in 2016, winning 48% of the vote. This is also the hometown of Haley’s top surrogate, GOP Gov. Chris Sununu. The town boasts a higher share of undeclared voters (39%) than Republicans (35%) or Democrats (28%). Last night, Trump took home almost 67% of the vote, again amounting to one of his best performances this time, too. 

Derry: Another town south of Manchester and situated along Interstate-93, Trump overperformed here in 2016, winning 42% of the vote. Undeclared voters are also the largest share of registered voters here (38%), followed by Republicans (35%) and Democrats (26%). Last night, Trump won the town handily, earning 63% of the vote to Haley’s 34%. 

Concord: The state capital is the most populous city in New Hampshire. There, Democrats (40%) far outnumber Republicans (23%) and slightly outnumber undeclared voters (37%). This was an important place for Haley to win, and she did — with 52% of the vote compared to Trump’s 45%. But she didn’t run up the score here, and that 7-point victory helps explain why Trump’s statewide margin may have been smaller than expected, but still in the double digits. 

Manchester: This is New Hampshire’s largest city where, in 2016, the results largely mirrored the eventual statewide result. Undeclared voters currently make up the largest share of registered voters in Manchester, with 40% of voters there registered as undeclared. Thirty-four percent of voters are Democrats and 26% are Republicans. Despite that, Trump dominated, winning 57% of the Republican primary votes there, compared to Haley’s 41% vote share there.

In other campaign news … 

Haley’s next steps: Vowing to stay in the race, Haley’s next steps include refocusing on South Carolina and spending some time on the fundraising circuit, per NBC’s Natasha Korecki. Haley’s campaign also released a new TV ad in South Carolina on Wednesday morning, knocking Trump and Biden, with a narrator saying, “Biden? Too old. Trump? Too much chaos. A rematch no one wants. There’s a better choice for a better America. Her story started right here.”

B-i-d-e-n: NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald breaks down Biden’s win in New Hampshire’s Democratic primary, writing that Biden “is on track to win more votes in New Hampshire as a write-in candidate than former President Barack Obama did when he ran for re-election in 2012, unopposed and on the ballot.”

Down-ballot drag?: As Trump marches toward the GOP nomination, he’s already looming over races further down the ballot. That includes the GOP primary for governor in New Hampshire, where state Sen. Chuck Morse has endorsed Trump, while former Sen. Kelly Ayotte has just said that she will support her party’s nominee. 

Staff shakeup: Two top Biden administration officials — Jennifer O’Malley Dillon and Mike Donilon — are joining Biden’s re-election campaign, per NBC’s White House team.

DeSantis’ take: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis blamed his unsuccessful presidential bid on “checked out” Republicans in his first TV interview since dropping out of the race, per NBC’s Alec Hernández.

Ballot push: Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s third-party presidential campaign said Tuesday that it had collected the necessary signatures to qualify for the New Hampshire ballot, per Axios. 

No labels, but a lawsuit: Two prominent donors to the centrist group No Labels are suing the group, arguing that the group’s pivot to funding a potential third-party presidential campaign amounted to a “bait-and-switch” that misuses their donation, NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald reports. No Labels brushed aside the lawsuit, with a lawyer panning the suit as “frivolous,” arguing it’s been years since the donors gave to the group. 

He’s running: North Dakota’s only member of Congress, Republican Kelly Armstrong, announced Tuesday that he’ll run for governor, just one day after GOP Gov. Doug Burgum said he wouldn’t run for a third term. 

Mayoral mayhem: Bridgeport, Conn., on Tuesday held its third mayoral election in five months after allegations of fraud in the September Democratic primary led a state judge to overturn an initial victory by incumbent Joe Ganim, NBC News’ Jane C. Timm reports. 

ICYMI: What ELSE is happening in the world

House Republicans officially have one of the smallest House majorities ever after Ohio GOP Rep. Bill Johnson left the chamber this week to start as president of Youngstown State University, NBC’s Kyle Stewart reports. 

Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci told NBC’s Tom Costello that “many” of the company’s Boeing 737 Max 9 planes were found to have loose bolts following an incident earlier this month where a panel of the plane’s wall fell off mid-flight.

The Biden administration on Tuesday filed a brief asking the Supreme Court not to restrict access to medication abortion.