A Tale of Two Candidates: Haley Gains on Trump in New Hampshire While DeSantis Flatlines

New polls released this week showed former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley closing in on former President Donald Trump in New Hampshire and moving into second-place territory in Iowa.


New polls released this week showed former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley closing in on former President Donald Trump in New Hampshire and moving into second-place territory in Iowa. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, meanwhile, has flatlined in Iowa and collapsed in New Hampshire.

  • Two polls – Sunday’s CBS News poll and Tuesday’s St. Anselm College survey – have found Haley moving into a strong second place in the Granite State. Trump polled at 44% in both polls, with Haley earning 30% in the St. Anselm poll and 29% in the CBS survey.
  • The results indicate Haley has catapulted far ahead of her competitors and established herself as the clear alternative to Trump in New Hampshire. In a sign of her growing strength in the state, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu endorsed her candidacy last week.
  • Haley appears to have pulled into a tie for second place – if not a slight lead – in Iowa as well. The latest Emerson College poll of likely Iowa caucusgoers found Trump with a dominant 50% of the vote, with Haley edging out DeSantis 17% to 15% for second place.
  • Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie is in a distant third in both polls, earning 12% in the St. Anselm poll and 10% in the CBS News survey. Christie, whose stated goal is defeating Trump, may actually be contributing to Trump’s lead by splitting the non-Trump vote with Haley.
  • The St. Anselm College survey also had troubling news for DeSantis. The Florida governor’s campaign has utterly collapsed in New Hampshire and DeSantis can only muster 6% support, good for fourth place and statistically-tied with fifth-place finisher Vivek Ramaswamy (5%). 
  • These polls will be important for determining which candidates make the stage for the ABC News New Hampshire debate, which is scheduled for early January after the Iowa Caucus. 
  • Candidates will need at least 10% in national or New Hampshire polls to qualify, or will need to finish in the top 3 in Iowa. As of today, only Trump, DeSantis, Haley, and Christie will qualify.


reporting from the left side of the aisle


  • Axios pointed out another finding from the CBS News poll explaining Haley’s rise: “Over half of likely GOP primary voters in New Hampshire described the former South Carolina governor as both ‘likable’ and ‘reasonable’ compared to just over a third who thought the same of Trump.”
  • The New York Times explored the dynamics that contributed to Sununu’s decision to back Haley over Trump, Christie or DeSantis. The Times noted, “Given his popularity and his proven ability to win as a Republican in a state that leans Democratic, Mr. Sununu could help sway the moderate Republicans and independents whom Ms. Haley is counting on to give her a strong showing in New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary on Jan. 23.”
  • Politico noted Haley’s ascent in New Hampshire has “been a blow to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has staked his campaign’s success or failure on the first-in-the-nation primary state.”



  • MarketWatch quoted Republican strategist Liam Donovan who said it is “gut check time for Christie” after both surveys found him trailing in a distant third place in the only state he is campaigning in with a mere 10% of the vote. 
  • The New York Post reported Haley’s move into a tie for second place in Iowa has led Americans for Prosperity Action, a conservative grassroots organization backing Haley that’s funded by the Koch network, to announce a new campaign push to “help Haley finish as strong as possible in Iowa and continue her momentum into New Hampshire.”
  • National Review’s Noah Rothman argued this new data means Haley’s “pathway to a competitive race with Trump is now visible.” Rothman notes that in the unlikely event Trump underperforms in the early states, “Given his prohibitive strength in the polls, anything short of a dominant showing by Trump could be reasonably characterized as an underperformance. Haley will have to confront the possibly detrimental narrative that she owes her political successes to non-Republicans if she once again beats expectations. Nevertheless, momentum is momentum, and Haley would have it.”


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© Dominic Moore, 2023