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Why New Hampshire Thinks It’s Smarter Than Iowa

Written by The Anand Market

Updated on:

Now that the Republican primary race has moved from Iowa to New Hampshire, some things will change.

The evangelical Christian social conservatism that dominates Iowa Republican politics is gone, replaced by fiscal hawkishness and a libertarian streak rooted in the Granite State’s “Live Free or Die” philosophy.

With Iowa entirely in the rearview mirror, expect to hear some variation of the phrase “Iowa picks corn, New Hampshire picks presidents,” a favorite local slogan that magnifies the state’s role in the nomination process. But ask Pat Buchanan and John McCain how winning New Hampshire in 1996 and 2000 catapulted them to the White House.

One thing is clear: New Hampshire Republicans think their focus on federal spending and the national debt makes them much smarter than their Iowa brethren, for whom abortion and transgender issues are at the forefront of their minds. the agenda.

“You have a more sophisticated electorate in New Hampshire,” said Ryan Williams, a Republican operative who got his start in the state working for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns. “New Hampshire voters exude rugged individualism and ironclad Yankee frugality. It’s a different situation.

Exit polls in Iowa suggest that many members of the state’s Republican caucus decided to support former President Donald J. Trump well before the final stretch of the campaign. New Hampshire voters have a well-deserved reputation for making decisions late. Mr. McCain’s victory in 2008 — which propelled him to the nomination — followed a final push on Mr. Romney and other rivals.

This year, former Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina is betting that there is enough elasticity among New Hampshire voters that her momentum can overtake Mr. Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida.

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For weeks, she played into the vanity game of New Hampshire Republicans. When she said the state’s primary voters would “correct” the results of the Iowa caucuses, she echoed a long-held belief among Granite State Republicans that they had a better sense of type of the politician best placed to become the party’s presidential candidate. .

His remark earned him an attack announcement by Mr. DeSantis which was in heavy rotation on Iowa television. But the same sentiment is likely to earn him applause in New Hampshire.

“Based on the polls, we don’t know what’s going to happen next week,” Chris Ager, chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party, said Tuesday on CNN. “We just have a very independent-minded electorate, and they’re not going to look at what happened in Iowa and make a decision based on that.”

Mr. DeSantis, who has accused both Mr. Trump and Ms. Haley of not being sufficiently dedicated to banning abortion and made his opposition to transgender rights central to the campaign, did not focused a lot on New Hampshire. He shifted his post-Iowa resources to South Carolina.

“People don’t choose their presidential candidate in New Hampshire based on their stance on transgender rights,” said Steve Duprey, a former McCain aide who was a Republican National Committee member from New Hampshire before being ousted for not being loyal enough to Mr. Trump.

Last year, Mr. Duprey supported Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina in the presidential race. Then, when Mr. Scott withdrew, he threw his support behind Ms. Haley, and he is now working to rebuild the old McCain coalition to help prevent Mr. Trump from walking away with the nomination.

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The challenge facing Mr. Duprey is that, for much of the party, the old focus on fiscal issues has been replaced by the magnetism of Mr. Trump, who in 2016 won the state’s primary election with almost 20 percentage points. That contest all but dashed the hopes of several moderate rivals, including Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Chris Christie, and gave an improbable boost to John Kasich, who finished second.

Now, Ms. Haley’s chances of showing she can compete with Mr. Trump beyond next week could hinge on her ability to reincarnate herself as the next Mr. McCain as the campaign moves to her home state. origin, South Carolina. The big question is whether New Hampshire Republicans see it that way.