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After New Hampshire primary loss, Haley says the race is far from over

ELAINE LENOY: I like Nikki, but I think Trump could do the job better.

TOM MANNING: I just support Biden. I think he's done a good job despite what everybody else is thinking.

DENNIS KELLY: There's a lack of choice. The two parties have broken the system, and that's my feeling. I'm 71. I've been voting since my first opportunity to vote, and this is the worst choices that I've seen in my lifetime.

MARIA GAKISS: I think it's very important. If you don't vote, you cannot complain.

DICK ELLARD: Well, Biden is too old, and Trump's a nut.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

New Hampshire has voted. And this is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And I'm Michel Martin. Good morning. The voices you just heard a moment ago were those of New Hampshire primary voters Elaine Lenoy (ph), a Republican who voted for Donald Trump; Tom Manning (ph), a Democrat backing Joe Biden; Dennis Kelly, an independent who says he voted for Democrat Dean Phillips as a protest; Maria Gakiss (ph), an independent who voted for Trump; and Dick Ellard (ph), a lifelong independent who says he did not like any of his choices but voted for Phillips too. Although only two states have voted, Iowa and New Hampshire, former President Trump did win both of them, and those two decisive wins do bring Trump closer to clinching the GOP nomination. So where does this leave Nikki Haley's campaign? For that, we have Mark Harris on the line. He is the lead strategist of the pro-Haley super PAC Stand for America. Good morning, Mr. Harris. Thanks for joining us.

MARK HARRIS: Good morning. Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: Well, thanks for coming. All right. Let's just stipulate that what the ambassador and former governor Nikki Haley said last night is true. Only two states have voted. But realistically, what is her path now that Trump has taken both the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire Republican primary so decisively?

HARRIS: Yeah. I mean, we only have to go back one election cycle to see a major party candidate who didn't win those two states go on to win the nomination. I mean, Joe Biden got 2% in Iowa and 8% in New Hampshire last cycle and went on to win the nomination of his party fairly easily. This is a different situation, obviously, but I think you have to look at it as, you know, President Trump is the former president. We're running against him in his own party. So, you know, you have to look at him as an incumbent. And he's an incumbent who's barely been able to get over 50%. I mean, for example, I mean, Joe Biden is incumbent - last night, you know, was able to rack up a 50-point marginal win. And that's not what Donald Trump has done. You know, he won by 30-some points in Iowa and now looks like 10 or so points in New Hampshire, so...

MARTIN: I take also what the ambassador said - ambassador, former Governor Haley said that, look, if you count up all the opponents, people who were running against Trump, and you total up the vote, it's - you know, it's closer than it appears. But of these candidates who have dropped out, you know, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson's supporting Nikki Haley, but three others - Vivek Ramaswamy, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Tim Scott - all going for Trump. And that Tim Scott really stands out because it was Nikki Haley who got him into the Senate. So what do you make of that? What do you think is going on there?

HARRIS: Look, Nikki Haley is a happy warrior. We're going to spend the next month in South Carolina, you know, running a campaign that's about the future, that's about moving on from the chaos of the past and giving Republican primary voters in South Carolina a choice, reminding them of her conservative record, reminding her - them of the great things that she did as governor. You know, and we're very confident that that's going to put us in a position to do well in South Carolina.

MARTIN: Of all the people who shouldn't need to be reminded, though, wouldn't you think it would be South Carolina voters, who did put her in the governor's office? I mean, the polls show that she's trailing there. I recognize that polls aren't everything, but the polls show her trailing in her own home state. Why is that?

HARRIS: We haven't campaigned there really yet, right? So, like, just like she went from 2 to 20 in New - or in Iowa and 2 to 45 or whatever it ends up finally being in New Hampshire, you know, she grew dramatically by campaigning as people see more of her, as they - as she gets to be on the stump, etc. So, you know, we're going to do a lot of that. And a month in politics is a long time. And so, you know, this is going to be a opportunity, as you heard from Nikki Haley last night, to talk about these important issues. I think she set the table. And then, you know, I think that that really will give voters in South Carolina the opportunity to make a real decision in a month.

MARTIN: What are her strengths there?

HARRIS: Look, I think this...

MARTIN: Yeah. In the states...

HARRIS: Yeah, the...

MARTIN: ...That she has coming up, what are her strengths?

HARRIS: Look, I think the strengths - I mean, she has a myriad of strengths, but I think a few of them to highlight is, look, she - Nikki Haley does very well in communicating her agenda to voters about what the future is going to hold - right? - and being a very future-focused candidate, one who's not mirrored in the disputes of the past. And I think that's why we've seen so much growth in these early states, is that voters do not want Biden versus Trump, right? They don't want that. And, you know, Nikki gives them an alternative and a fresh hope for America, something they can be optimistic about, something that they can be excited about. In the room last night, it was packed with young people and with others who, you know, are excited about Nikki's candidacy and excited about the future of our country.

MARTIN: I actually have to say that the exit polls showed that the youngest voters were actually the most favorable toward Trump among Republican exit polls. But OK, we'll see. We'll see.

HARRIS: I mean, that's not what our data shows, but we'll see.

MARTIN: We have - we'll see soon enough.

HARRIS: Yeah, exactly.

MARTIN: That's Mark Harris, lead strategist of the pro-Haley super PAC Stand for America. Mr. Harris, thanks so much for talking with us.

HARRIS: Thank you.

MARTIN: Danielle, sorry. Sorry, I forgot that you were there. Danielle Kurtzleben, I apologize.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: What did you make of what you...

DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: Well, thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: Sorry about that. I'm so used to you being in New Hampshire. What do you make of what you just heard?

KURTZLEBEN: I mean, really, it all does come down, though, to fundraising, right? Like, yes, Nikki Haley says she is going to continue to try to compete in South Carolina. That is a month away. Mark Harris is right there. A month is a long time. A month is also a long time to spend money. You need a lot of money to have ads on air over that month, to be holding events, to be doing all of that. So, yes, Nikki Haley posted some strong quarterly fundraising numbers late last year, but as for this quarter, we don't know how she's doing or how the super PAC is doing, for that matter.

MARTIN: Danielle, you are never forgettable. That is NPR political correspondent Danielle Kurtzleben. Danielle, thank you so much for sharing some insights with us.

KURTZLEBEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.

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