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At a critical moment, Nikki Haley stands to gain from Chris Christie’s exit

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At a critical moment, Nikki Haley stands to gain from Chris Christie's exit
Just five days before the Iowa caucuses and as she is trying to convince voters that the contest should be a head-to-head matchup between herself and Donald Trump, former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley received an unquestionable gift on Wednesday from Chris Christie, who withdrew from the Republican presidential primary.

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The timing of Christie’s announcement, which came before the caucuses, may help the former governor of South Carolina, who is touring the Hawkeye State and bolstering her claims that her South Carolina roots and high polling in New Hampshire make her the inevitable Trump rival, even though the former governor of New Jersey had never visited Iowa.

Haley’s possible surge in popularity is another uncomfortable development for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, whose candidacy is based on finishing at least strongly in second place in the caucuses, despite Haley’s relentless pursuit of him.Beyond Iowa, DeSantis faces a more difficult path because he has invested almost all of his money there and hasn’t established much of a presence in South Carolina or New Hampshire.

Christie’s withdrawal from the 2024 presidential race less than two weeks before New Hampshire also provided a grim reminder to Never-Trumpers: Even the fiercest opponent of Trump in the field was unable to advance past the state where he committed his candidacy.

Every early state poll, including the one in Iowa, has shown Trump to be ahead of the competition.
Nevertheless, as indicated by polls this week, there are many reasons to believe that Christie’s withdrawal will help Haley in New Hampshire. Haley is closing the gap on Trump in the CNN/University of New Hampshire poll, now only 7 percentage points behind him.

In that same survey, Christie, who was unquestionably in the Never-Trump camp, held at 12%. Should she gain support from Christie’s supporters, this could be sufficient to close the gap between Haley and Trump in the Granite State.

Republican state representative Bill Boyd of New Hampshire referred to Christie’s withdrawal as a “game changer.” He said that it would undermine Trump’s capacity to “run an attrition campaign” and would even compel him to have “significant boots on the ground” in the state.
Boyd declared, “Haley benefits without a doubt.” “What was once considered a slam dunk for President Trump in New Hampshire is now a toss-up.”

A senior campaign insider told NBC News that Trump’s team has always expected Christie to withdraw from the race before New Hampshire.
The top Trump campaign official stated, “If he were to endorse, he brings no GOP votes.” “He has astronomically low Republican support in New Hampshire.Because of what it does with unaffiliated voters—who may be Democrats but can cast ballots in a Republican primary—it slightly alters the race.

The Trump team feels that Christie’s own unfavorable numbers with Republicans, fueled by his persistent and forceful criticism of Trump, restrict his usefulness as an advocate for Haley, Trump’s greatest opponent in the state.

Haley’s potential ascent in the Granite State has also been impeded by recent actions taken by the Trump campaign.
The official stated, “We attacked her on the border in part to impose a ceiling.” “We have a full two weeks to pursue the case.”

Another Trump aide stated, “This was expected and we have been ready for every potential way this, or other changes in the field, could impact the race.”

Veteran Republican strategist from South Carolina, Alex Stroman, stated that even if Christie had not dropped out of the race, there was a possibility that supporters of the governor would wind up voting for Haley in New Hampshire because it is so obvious that Christie has no realistic chance of winning.

He declared, “Haley has won New Hampshire, and it sets up a hell of a battle for the nomination in South Carolina and beyond, if just half of those who are currently supporting Christie leave him and move to Haley.”

The question remains whether Christie’s backing for going to Haley would be sufficient. This week, a different survey conducted in New Hampshire by the Boston Globe, USA Today, and Suffolk revealed a larger difference between Trump and Haley—20 points. According to the same survey, 48% of the 12% of probable voters who chose Christie as their first choice said Haley was their second choice, compared to only 7% who said Trump was.

For several weeks, Christie had resisted calls for him to withdraw in order to facilitate a rallying behind Haley. Haley’s strategy for the campaign was to reduce the number of candidates after New Hampshire and then try to challenge Trump one-on-one in South Carolina.

Governor Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, who has endorsed Haley, was one among the people urging Christie to withdraw from the race.
Haley would “absolutely” benefit from Christie’s withdrawal from the campaign, according to Stroman, but he cautioned that an endorsement would potentially work against her.

Since he referred to Christie as “one of the least popular figures” in the Republican Party at the moment, Haley would be negatively impacted by his official endorsement.

Christie’s support for Haley doesn’t appear to be in immediate threat.
Christie was captured on a hot mic just before the Wednesday town hall where he abruptly left, and it seemed he was speaking about Haley: “You and I both know it—she’s going to get smoked.” She isn’t capable of this.
“DeSantis called me—petrified,” he added.

Following reports that he might be withdrawing, the governor of Florida called Christie earlier today, according to a person close to the situation who told NBC News that the governor valued Christie’s participation in the contest regardless of his choice. According to the source, Christie expressed similar disapproval of Haley during that call and indicated that she wasn’t capable of doing the job.

Furthermore, Christie hasn’t exactly praised her in recent New Hampshire public forums.
On Friday, he said to a crowd in Keene, New Hampshire, that his decision to withdraw from the race “has nothing to do with Nikki Haley.”

“I wouldn’t support her at this moment, even if I did get out,” he added, citing her lack of accomplishments. “She has to earn my support with what comes out of her mouth and within her heart,” Christie declared.

Hours before he dropped out, on Wednesday, he appeared to hint at the move at a town hall in New Hampshire.
“Everything else is subject to change. Character remains constant. This contents remain unchanged.

To be honest, it also doesn’t mean you have to support me. You may come to the conclusion that you would rather be with someone else in this race who has good character,” Christie remarked. “Well, if you do that, I’d be really upset with you. I’ll back your freedom to carry it out and then decide what to do. However, don’t back someone just because you believe they will succeed.

Just one day prior to making his announcement, he discussed that possibility at a town hall on Tuesday.
“I entered this race with the intention of defeating him and winning the presidency, and regardless of Nikki Haley’s comments, I will continue to run for office,” Christie declared.

“And with two weeks remaining in the race in New Hampshire, anything can happen as people start to concentrate and make their decisions. I’ll make that decision on my own, regardless of her and the current poll numbers.”
Still, Christie’s decision might have been sparked by the polling results.

Christie had overinvested in New Hampshire, setting up camp there and neglecting other early states, but he was unable to defeat Trump or Haley. He adopted a tough stance against the former president, labeling him variously a “dictator,” a “bully,” and a “coward,” and he threatened to put Trump in jail in an attempt to win over a section of the Republican Party that was fed up with him.

Some Christie supporters in New Hampshire even realized their candidate’s fate was inevitable.

Republican voter Greg Leach, 49, told NBC News he intends to vote for Haley after attending a Christie town hall on Tuesday night.

Leach remarked, “My brain tells me to vote for Nikki Haley, but my heart wants to vote for Gov. Christie.” He claimed that the results of the most recent polls guided his choice.

Haley is “within close striking distance of Trump,” in his opinion.
Leach declared, “I want to vote for Christie.” “However, I believe that at this moment, my vote would be squandered and effectively a vote for Trump.”

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