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The New Hampshire primary is supposed to be a beginning, a political starting gun in the race for president, but this time under the cold gray New England skies it might well be a finish line.
That is certainly the hope of Team Donald Trump, as it has been for months, to wrap this all up neat and quick, and thus far, the polls show that might be the case, for former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, well, it’s now or never.
William Faulkner once referred to a pocket watch as the “mausoleum of all hope and desire,” and for those many Americans hoping for a reprieve from a Biden-Trump rematch, it is a very apt description of the Granite State this year. Time is running out.
For the Republicans, the best chance to thwart Trump, some would argue the only chance is for Haley to pull off a shock win in New Hampshire that could dent the former president’s air of invincibility.
It was in that spirit that the former governor of South Carolina held a late morning rally at a middle school in Derry on Sunday, looking for a spark, but also carefully guarding her message.
The rally was well attended with cars forging snowbanked curbs to invent impromptu parking spaces, quite a few emblazoned with Trump or “Let’s Go Brandon” bumper stickers.
Did this mean the car owners were willing to give Nikki a shot? Or was it that in this primary season, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis all but absent, her rallies are the only non-Trump game in town? (DeSantis announced on Sunday afternoon that he was dropping out of the race and throwing his support to Trump.)
From the people I talked to, it was a bit of both.
But not everyone was welcome at the Haley rally, as I found out from a group of 5 young adults in their early 20s who had been unceremoniously kicked out of the event before it even began.
One of the group, Evvie, explained to me that they had arrived early, were in front and were hoping to ask Haley about the war in Gaza, which they oppose, when Haley staff approached and told them to leave, because they had experienced problems with hecklers in the past.
It was the opinion of the youthful attendees that they had been targeting both for their age and for not appearing to be a typical Haley voter, though, in all fairness, it’s not entirely clear what a typical Haley voter looks like.
“If politicians like Nikki Haley want to run for president of this country they should not be afraid of young voters,” Evvie told me, “they should be excited to see young voters at their events, frankly I think the Nikki Haley staff saw me as a young voter, and thought I would disagree with her about things.”
This comes just days after Haley’s campaign banned the Daily Mail from its events for the outlet’s reporting on a long-standing scandal that Haley has denied.
While it is possible that the young adults booted from the rally might have caused some kind of ruckus, they had not yet done so, they were just there, and it shows the lengths to which the Haley campaign will go to keep on message.
That is a message that has gotten rather sharper in regard to Trump in recent days, with Haley attacking Trump not just on policy, but now also comparing him to Joe Biden in terms of diminished mental capacity.
This comes after Trump appeared to confuse Haley with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at a recent rally while talking about the Capitol Riot, Haley for her part argues that this was a clear sign that Trump might be mentally slipping.
“I’m not saying anything derogatory — but when you’re dealing with the pressures of the presidency, we can’t have someone else that we question whether they’re mentally fit to do this,” she implored.
It is a line of attack likely to infuriate Trump supporters, not to mention Trump, but it shows how far Haley is now willing to go, as the clock winds down and she sprints to try to catch Trump by Tuesday.
Should she fail, New Hampshire will be known for something different this time, ending a primary season and ushering in the longest general election in the history of the United States.