The New Hampshire Republican primary on Tuesday may put former U.S. president Donald Trump one step closer to securing the nomination, but former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley could still emerge as his main challenger.
“All she has to do is establish herself as a credible threat to Trump. She doesn’t have to win,” Republican strategist Jonathan Majors told The West Block guest host Eric Sorensen.
“As long as she comes out within some kind of margin of error, she’s going to be in a very great position to make this a very contested race.”
Trump handily won the first primary in Iowa last week with 51 per cent of the vote. Haley placed third with 19-per cent support.
But New Hampshire is quite different. There, the voting pool is more moderate than other states as New Hampshire primary rules allow independents to vote as well and not just card-carrying Republicans.
“So, it’s a really different electorate, and she’s been able to make some strides with college-educated voters up there. However, it’s just not clear that anybody can beat Trump,” Sandra Peri, a former senior speechwriter for Barack Obama, said during the panel discussion.
In the fallout of the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters and a presidential campaign that critics say appears focused on retribution, there’s a sense of heightened stakes in this election.
Amid a myriad of legal issues, Trump is still heavily favoured to secure the Republican presidential nomination.
Madison sees a few reasons why voters are flocking to Trump with these heightened stakes.
“Right now, America feels very much demoralized. If you’re a resident here, you get the sense that the world doesn’t look at us the same on the international level,” Madison said.
“I think that people see in Trump, a lot of people in this country, a leader who could sort of restore us to that footing, that respectable place. And that’s very debatable. That’s a very contentious idea, but it’s very pivotal.”
He added it goes along with more countries turning inward in their own politics and being wary of international organizations like the EU, NATO and the International Monetary Fund.
“Leaders are struggling to keep up with the demands of their constituents, the perspective of their constituents in terms of protecting their own as opposed to protecting the world. So, I think that’s why you hear a lot of this rhetoric from Trump about NATO and whatnot,” he said.
Assuming Trump and President Joe Biden are at the top of their respective tickets in November, this would set up a rematch of the 2020 presidential election.
This is why Peri sees the choice as who is best to guide America through a global period of turbulence.
“It’s not clear to me that this has so much to do with individual leadership, as it does with just the rapid changes that are taking over people’s lives, and a sense that maybe their kids’ futures aren’t going to be as bright as they imagined, as bright as their own were,” she said.
“If your interest is in building a society, a world where countries are working together to fight our shared challenges, whether it’s climate change or growing authoritarianism or global poverty, the notion of bringing back ‘America First’ Trump seems antithetical.”
Speaking in French on Jan. 16 at a Montreal Chamber of Commerce event, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said American voters face a choice.
“Do Americans want a nation that is optimistic or will they choose a step backwards, nostalgia for a time that never existed, a populism that reflects anxiety and fury without necessarily offering solutions?” Trudeau said.
While he didn’t name either candidate, Madison credited Trudeau for speaking his mind, something he adds Trump is not shy to do, either.
“I think he also mentioned it was a challenge working with Barack Obama, Joe Biden as well. So, whoever is in office, it’s going to be a challenge,” he said.
As for Peri, she looks at the Nov. 5 presidential vote as one with the future of American democracy at stake.
“We have never seen anything like this. And so, for everybody who believes in the ideal of democracy, it’s going to be really important to make sure that the United States does not elect Donald Trump again.”