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Nikki Haley in New Hampshire
Republican presidential candidate former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley during a campaign rally on Jan. 17, 2024, in Rochester, N.H.Robert F. Bukaty / AP file

Eyes on November: One New Hampshire bellwether to watch

Seven cities and towns in New Hampshire that have correctly picked the eventual winner of the statewide GOP primary since 1952.

By and

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.