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New Hampshire primary could be final GOP chance to stop Trump

First Read is your briefing from the NBC News Political Unit on the day’s most important political stories and why they matter.
Donald Trump during a campaign rally in Rochester, N.H.
Donald Trump during a campaign rally in Rochester, N.H., on Jan. 21, 2024.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images file

Happening this Tuesday: It’s Primary Day in New Hampshire… Most polling places close at 7:00 pm ET; final polling places close at 8:00 pm ET… Nikki Haley wins all six votes in Dixville Notch, per NBC’s Emma Barnett… Donald Trump concludes final New Hampshire event with three former opponents joining him — Vivek Ramaswamy, Tim Scott and Doug Burgum… And President Biden, VP Harris hold rally on abortion rights in Northern Virginia at 4:30 pm ET.

But FIRST… Is tonight’s primary the final stand of the 2024 Republican presidential race?

That’s the main storyline heading into just the second GOP nominating contest in New Hampshire, where former President Donald Trump has only one remaining major opponent — former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley — and where he’s leading in the polls by double digits. 

Let’s recap the 2024 GOP race: Gone is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, backed by Iowa’s governor, who couldn’t defeat Trump in the Hawkeye State. 

Gone, too, is former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who based his candidacy on his opposition to Trump — and, by the way, never endorsed Haley or any other remaining GOP opponent. 

And gone from the 2024 GOP race are entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, who all campaigned for Trump at his final rally in New Hampshire Monday night. 

All who’s left is Haley, endorsed by New Hampshire’s sitting governor, as well as by the Koch political network, Americans for Prosperity. 

One poll question we’ve continually asked in our national and Iowa surveys is whether Trump should remain as the GOP’s leader, and the findings have been consistent: A majority of Republican voters want Trump to stay as their leader. 

Unless that finding changes in New Hampshire (along with Haley winning over the state’s unique mix of undeclared voters), as well as across the rest of the GOP primary calendar, Trump will be tough to beat. 

Headline of the day 

The number of the day is … 322,000

That’s how many people New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan predicts will turn out for Tuesday’s Republican primary in the state, a number that would shatter modern turnout records for either the GOP or Democratic primaries there.  

That projection is, in no small part, boosted by the lack of competition in the Democratic contest, where Scanlan predicts just 88,000 will participate. (Remember, as NBC’s Shaquille Brewster and Kailani Koenig explore, ”undeclared” voters can vote in either contest. That dynamic has long made New Hampshire’s primary unique among the early state races.) 

The GOP’s best turnout in recent years came in 2016, when more than 285,000 voted, while turnout in the Democratic contest eclipsed that number in 2020, with more than 298,000 participants.  

Scanlan’s estimate for this year’s Democratic turnout is almost half as many people as those who turned out for Trump in an uncontested 2020 New Hampshire primary (almost 154,000), but slightly more than the 2012 Democratic primary turnout in the state (almost 61,000). 

Eyes on November: One New Hampshire bellwether to watch

There is plenty to watch for in the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, NBC’s Henry Gomez writes.  

In terms of primary bellwethers, seven cities and towns in New Hampshire that have correctly picked the eventual winner of the statewide GOP primary since 1952, according to the Secretary of State’s office: East Kingston, Lancaster, Newmarket, Pembroke, Rochester, Sanbornton and Washington.

And one of them has seen both Trump and Haley come through in the final days before Tuesday’s primary: Rochester. 

Trump held one of his last major events Sunday night in Rochester, N.H., a small city in the southeastern part of the state. In 2016, Trump won the city by 20 points, close to his 23-point statewide margin of victory.  

“It’s a good mix of the makeup of the modern New Hampshire Republican Party,” said Ryan Williams, a Republican strategist who worked for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign and for Republican former Sen. John Sununu. 

“You’ve got very conservative activists and some longtime party stalwarts,” Williams said. “So that attracts quite a bit of attention in primaries.” 

We traveled to Rochester this weekend with NBC’s New Hampshire embed, Emma Barnett, to get a sense of how voters were thinking about the primary, and found plenty of Trump fans, along with some Haley supporters who tended to be undeclared voters. 

Read more about the view from this bellwether on, and don’t miss Barnett’s piece on what she learned over her seven months in the Granite State.

In other campaign news …  

Closing arguments: Trump and Haley made their final appeals to New Hampshire voters in dueling events Monday evening. NBC’s Jake Traylor reports that Trump stressed that Republicans were united behind him, rallying with former rivals Vivek Ramaswamy, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum. And Haley, appearing with Granite State Gov. Chris Sununu, said this time, it’s Trump who is the candidate of “the entire political elite,” per NBC’s Sarah Dean and Greg Hyatt. 

Don’t vote, boo: New Hampshire officials are investigating a robocall that appears to feature an artificial intelligence impersonation of President Joe Biden telling Democrats not to vote in New Hampshire’s primary. NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald and Mike Memoli broke the story, which comes as states weigh how to regulate AI and deep fakes this election cycle.  

More endorsements: Trump’s snagged a handful of new endorsements over the last day, including South Carolina Reps. Nancy Mace and Jeff Duncan, Virginia Rep. Bob Good and Florida Attorney Gen. Ashley Moody. And on top of that, the heads of both the GOP House and Senate campaign arms released statements calling Trump the party’s “presumptive nominee.”   

Keeping it in neutral: While Trump has more than half the Senate GOP behind him, Politico reports that some of the senators who have remained neutral aren’t counting Haley out yet. 

Expectations games: Haley told NBC’s Ali Vitali Monday that her goal Tuesday is to finish “stronger” than she did in Iowa “and then keep going to my sweet state of South Carolina.” Meanwhile, the expectations game is a tricky one for Biden, who isn’t on the primary ballot in New Hampshire but has supporters angling for Democrats to write him in, per Seitz-Wald. 

Courtroom drama: The defamation case against Trump filed by writer E. Jean Carroll has been delayed until Wednesday over Covid concerns, and Trump spent the first day off attacking Carroll on social media.  

Friends like these: Just one day after dropping out of the GOP presidential race and endorsing Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis threatened to veto a Florida state legislative attempt to have the state pay for Trump’s legal fees. 

Burgum’s swan song: North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum announced Monday he won’t run for a third term

Trump stars in high-profile Senate debates: The GOP frontrunner played a starring role in both Monday’s Ohio GOP Senate debate, where candidates fought over their party’s direction, and in California, where Democrats ganged up on the race’s top Republican to criticize him over his party’s standard bearer.  

New map: Louisiana GOP Gov. Jeff Landry signed a new congressional map into law, creating a second majority-Black district, breaking up GOP Rep. Garrett Graves’ House seat, per the Shreveport Times. 

ICYMI: What ELSE is happening in the world

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court on Monday allowed Border Patrol agents to remove razor wireinstalled along the Southern border by Texas. 

The Navy has identified two SEALs who were lost in a nighttime raid at sea earlier this month near Somalia.

The U.S. and Britain on Monday launched their second round of strikes this month against Houthi targetsin Yemen, NBC’s Courtney Kube reports. 

Key Senate negotiators have moved to a new phase in their talks about imposing tougher immigration and asylum laws — finalizing funding provisions, NBC’s Frank Thorp V, Sahil Kapur and Kate Santaliz report.