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Nikki Haley “Doesn’t Have a Future,” Says Former New Hampshire Politician

“If there was a state she could win in … it was this state, and she still lost by 11 points,” Arnie Arnesen says.

Former President Donald Trump won New Hampshire’s primary on Tuesday with 54% of the vote to 43% for former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, the last major challenger to Trump’s Republican bid. “If there was a state she could win in, in the entire United States, it was this state, and she still lost by 11 points,” says Arnie Arnesen, longtime New Hampshire radio and TV host and former politician. “She doesn’t have a future.” On the Democratic side, President Biden won his party’s primary as a write-in candidate after the state refused to cooperate with Democratic National Committee rules, and therefore did not win any delegates from New Hampshire. Refusing to recognize the state’s primary and not campaigning in the state was “a stupid political mistake” by Democrats that allowed Trump’s claims to go uncontested, says Arnesen. “This is an invitation to fascism.”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Former President Donald Trump won New Hampshire’s primary on Tuesday by over 11 percentage points, a vote of 54%, defeating former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who got 43%. Haley was the last major challenger to Trump after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis ended his presidential bid Sunday night and threw his support to Trump. Trump is the first nonincumbent Republican presidential candidate to win races in both Iowa and New Hampshire since both states began leading the election calendar in 1976. In his victory speech Tuesday, Trump criticized Nikki Haley for losing New Hampshire and vowed he would beat President Biden in November.

DONALD TRUMP: We’ve won almost every single poll in the last three months against crooked Joe Biden. Almost every poll. And she doesn’t win those polls. And she doesn’t win those. This is not your typical victory speech, but let’s not have somebody take a victory when she had a very bad night. She ha a very bad night.

AMY GOODMAN: Nikki Haley will pass on the Nevada caucuses February 8th and put all her efforts and millions of dollars into ad buys for February 24th primary in her home state of South Carolina. In her concession speech last night in New Hampshire, she vowed to continue her campaign.

NIKKI HALEY: New Hampshire is first in the nation; it is not the last in the nation. This race is far from over. There are dozens of states left to go.

HALEY SUPPORTER: Let your voice be heard, Nikki!

NIKKI HALEY: And the next one is my sweet state of South Carolina.

AMY GOODMAN: On the Democratic side, President Joe Biden won his party’s primary but did so as a write-in candidate. He didn’t campaign or appear on the ballot, after the Democratic National Committee, supported by Biden, voted to start its primary season next month in South Carolina. New Hampshire’s state government, controlled by Republicans, would not comply with the DNC’s new rules and scheduled the primary for last night. As a result, Biden did not win any delegates from New Hampshire. His final vote count is still being tallied. Congressmember Dean Phillips came second with about 20% of the vote, with Marianne Williamson placing third with about 5%.

For more, we’re joined by Arnie Arnesen, longtime radio and talk show host in New Hampshire, former New Hampshire legislator and Democratic gubernatorial candidate in the ’92 elections. She’s host of The Attitude on WNHN-FM in Concord, New Hampshire.

Arnie, welcome back to Democracy Now! I think you were our first guest in 1996, when we were covering the New Hampshire primary.

ARNIE ARNESEN: Shhh, don’t tell anyone. It’s aging both of us. And I’ve been covering presidential politics with you, Amy, for such a long time, as well. So thank you for having me back.

AMY GOODMAN: So, if you can first respond to Trump’s win, the significance of that, and also explain how the New Hampshire primary works, with independents, with Republicans? He got something like, what, three-quarters of the Republican vote, but I think Nikki Haley beat him when it came to independents.

ARNIE ARNESEN: So, let me — we’re such a quirky place. We actually have a law in New Hampshire — and that law was actually written in 1975 — that the New Hampshire primary has to come one week before any other primary in the country. So, when the Democrats, for example, decided to go to South Carolina, we couldn’t change the law. The law said we have to have a primary, and the primary was yesterday. Republicans kept the same calendar, so, therefore, Republicans had an “official” primary, and the Democrats had an “unofficial” primary. But the law was, we were going to have a primary by hook or by crook. We couldn’t change it. The Republicans control the Governor’s Office, the House, the Senate. They weren’t going to rewrite the law. It was beneficial to them, the Republicans. So, again, that’s one of the reasons why Donald Trump had the only official primary, and there was a write-in for Joe Biden.

So, now let me also explain something else. There are sort of three groups in New Hampshire: Republicans, Democrats and something called undeclareds. Undeclareds are actually the largest registered group in New Hampshire. They’re over 40%. And as a result of the undeclareds, in New Hampshire, if there is a election, undeclareds in the primary have a choice: They can pick up a Democratic ballot, or they can pick up a Republican ballot, on the day of the primary. There was no reason to pick up a Democratic ballot, because what’s the point? You were writing in Joe Biden. It wasn’t going to be recognized by the DNC. So the motivation for them, all the motivation, was to pick a Republican ballot.

Now the question is: What were they going to do when they picked it up? They really only had two choices. They had Nikki, who is — I describe her as MAGA polite, or they had MAGA — in other words, they had Donald Trump. And a lot of them, basically, were sort of — there was no way they could support Donald Trump. They were Republicans maybe. They were conservatives maybe, or even something moderate. But Donald Trump was so offensive to them that there was no way they were going to do it. So Nikki benefited from those undeclareds having nowhere to go on the Democratic side, and the only place they could go to exercise the franchise, for the most part, was on the Republican ballot. And that’s one of the reasons why she was so successful with these undeclareds, more moderate voters. And, of course, Donald Trump was able to clean up with what? The conservative Republican base, because Republicans today are MAGA Republicans. They are not Republicans; they’re MAGA Republicans. She was trying to somehow convince the small number left of more traditional Republicans and then grab those undeclareds and say, “Now vote for me.”

But, Amy, there’s something that’s really important here. She lost by 11 percentage points. Everyone says she may still have a future, there’s some way to go. This state was designed for Nikki Haley. If there was a state she could win in, in the entire United States, it was this state, and she still lost by 11 points. Can I explain to you why I say this? I just posted this on Facebook. I want you to hear it. She had everything in her political backpack, and she still lost. Why? She had a great weather, unlike what you saw in Iowa. She had an affable political windsock named Chris Sununu, my governor, who basically was attached at her hip and gave actually probably more speeches than Nikki did and was more positive about her election than even she was. She had Koch money. The Koch network decided in December that they were going to pick Maggie — I mean, Nikki to support. So, starting in December, they were pouring millions and millions of dollars into her campaign, money she did not have, but they were able to do it. The Americans for Prosperity, which is the Koch network, has been operating in New Hampshire for decades. They knew the state. They knew what kind of mailers to do. They knew how to bring people out. And they spent millions on her. She also, as I just mentioned, had the undeclareds only having one choice: to vote in the GOP primary. She had no Democratic primary of consequence because it was a write-in. And then, last but not least — this is really important — what is New Hampshire? We are a highly educated, rich, white state that doesn’t go to church. OK? I mean, compared to Iowa, we are probably the second least church state in the country. And when you look at all those pieces, Amy, she should have won. She should have won. But she still could not win.

What does that tell you? She doesn’t have a future. The only future she has isn’t whether he’s a convicted felon, because even she said she would vote for him if he was the nominee, if he was a convicted felon. She’s obviously looking at the fact that he’s probably not the healthiest man on the planet, and therefore she wants to be the person second in command in case he falls apart. And if he does, she’ll say, “Look, I’ve been here. I survived so much. Maybe I should be your nominee.”

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Arnie, I wanted to ask you about Joe Biden’s role here. You wrote in a piece to make South Carolina the first in the nation Democratic primary in 2024 for the Raw Story that, quote, “by attempting to make South Carolina the first-in-the-nation Democratic primary in 2024 was one of the biggest political blunders in your decades-long time in public service.” Why do you think that?

ARNIE ARNESEN: OK, so, I don’t think that New Hampshire should be a prima donna and should be assumed to go first. Let me just say that, OK? I’ve always said that. But this was not the time to make the switch. And the reason is, is that in 2028, give it to somebody else. But because it was Donald Trump, because there’s such a pervasion of lies, that meant that if it was going to be a Joe Biden, you couldn’t cede Iowa, you shouldn’t cede New Hampshire to just a Republican conversation that was going to be covered nationally and internationally and over and over again. It’s bad enough that Trump has an echo chamber everywhere, but then, in some ways, Joe Biden gave him an even bigger echo chamber, because there was no Democratic conversation in either Iowa and New Hampshire. And even if you thought people were running against Donald Trump, whether it was Ron DeSantis, whether it was Vivek, whether it was NIkki, they never touched Trump. So, they all touched Biden, so all the negativity about why they should be the next candidate for the Republicans was not about that they should defeat Trump. It’s that they were defeating Biden.

So, to a large extent, he ceded them the playing ground. He allowed them to continue the lies, the distortion of the economy, the ideas about the border. All those things became the headlines, and nothing about what he had accomplished, who he was, even, obviously, the conversation about abortion. Now it’s the third rail for Republicans. But they basically did not have another voice.

And so, by deciding to go to South Carolina, it was a yawn. Nobody is going to be focusing on that. It’s assumed he’s going to win. He doesn’t gain anything with South Carolina. But he would have gained something by having another message coming out of Iowa, coming out of New Hampshire, as they were focusing on what the choice would be in 2024 for president. It was a stupid political mistake. That doesn’t mean that we should always be first, but not in 2024 with Trump running for president again. This is a threat to democracy. This is an invitation to fascism. We could look at a country that we will not recognize after the November election, God forbid Trump wins.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what were you able to see in terms of Trump expanding his base in New Hampshire compared to previous elections in which he’s run?

ARNIE ARNESEN: Did he expand his base? His base are Republicans. His base are MAGA. He doesn’t expand his base. But, frankly, if he’s going to win the nomination, he doesn’t need to. In this state, perhaps he might have needed to, but he couldn’t accomplish it. That’s part of the problem.

I mean, I described Nikki Haley as democracy-lite. Why? Because she is one of those individuals who have said that, actually, Joe Biden won in 2020. In order to be a good Republican, you have to say that Joe Biden did not win in 2020. But she said that Joe Biden won in 2020. But then, what does she say? “But if Donald Trump is a convicted felon and he happens to get the nomination, I’ll still vote for him.”

So, part of the problem right now is, if you don’t buy into the lie that Joe Biden isn’t legit, you can’t be a Republican anymore. And if you actually believe that Joe Biden is the president of the United States, then that’s where you would expand your base. But he can’t expand his base, because he demands the following that follows him in his cult to say, “Joe Biden is illegitimate. I am actually your president, and I am the one to win, because I will be your retribution.” That’s what he’s about.

And every time Amy says, well, chaos follows Donald Trump, guess what: That’s what Donald Trump loves. He loves the chaos. He flourishes in the chaos. And when people kept saying, “Well, he didn’t debate,” for example. “He didn’t debate this whole time, Donald Trump.” Yes, he did. You know where he debated? He debated in front of judges. And that’s what he debated. He loves being in a New York courtroom, because he’d rather debate a judge than debate anyone about whether he should be the nominee for president.

AMY GOODMAN: Arnie Arnesen, when he called Haley an imposter, he falsely claimed he had won the general election vote in New Hampshire in 2016 against Hillary Clinton — he didn’t; she did — and in 2020 with Joe Biden — he won New Hampshire; Trump didn’t — as he continued that lie.

ARNIE ARNESEN: Amy, you’re acting like facts have meaning. I mean, with Donald Trump, I mean, everyone kept saying that — remember when he said the comment about he mixed up Nancy Pelosi and Nikki Haley about what happened on January 6th? He didn’t mix it up. I hate to break it to you. That wasn’t a senior moment. That was intentional. Because now what he’s doing is, he’s sort of doing this mail merge, so that now Nikki is Nancy Pelosi, now Nikki is Hillary Clinton, now Nikki is anyone who has actually taken him on and maybe defeated him. Now Nikki becomes that person.

The cult doesn’t care about the facts. You can say to him, “But, oh, Donald Trump, you lost.” No, he never loses. And the base that follows him believes he never loses. So, you and I are focused on numbers. We’re focused on votes. We’re focused on facts. That is basically not an essential requirement for people that support Donald Trump. They don’t need facts. They just need him.

AMY GOODMAN: Arnie Arnesen, I want to thank you for being with us, longtime radio and TV host in New Hampshire, host of The Attitude on WNHN-FM in Concord, New Hampshire, former New Hampshire legislator and Democratic gubernatorial candidate in the ’92 elections.

We will stay in New Hampshire, next up, and speak with journalist Jeff Sharlet. He’s a Dartmouth professor in Hanover, New Hampshire, and author of The Undertow: Scenes from a Slow Civil War. Stay with us.

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