The Last Day of the Faux Republican Primary

Two candidates enter. One candidate leaves.

BBC (“Nikki Haley finally gets her solo showdown with Donald Trump in New Hampshire“):

With Ron DeSantis suspending his presidential campaign on Sunday, Nikki Haley gets the one-on-one match-up with Donald Trump for which she’s been longing.

“At one point in this campaign, there were 14 of us running,” she says in an email fundraising pitch, sent out shortly after the DeSantis news broke.

“But today, it’s officially a two-person race between me and Donald Trump!”

Officially.

Ms Haley’s showdown with Mr Trump in the state-by-state contest to choose a Republican presidential candidate may not turn out exactly as she hoped, however. The way the 14-person field has thinned of late has played out mostly to the former president’s advantage.

Do tell.

First, Mr DeSantis edged ahead of Ms Haley for second place in Iowa’s caucuses, denying her any substantial momentum boost heading into New Hampshire, which votes on Tuesday.

The day after Mr Trump’s huge win in Iowa, another presidential rival, Vivek Ramaswamy, withdrew from the race and endorsed Mr Trump, giving him an extra round of headlines.

Because he had otherwise not been in the news.

Now Mr DeSantis is out of the picture, as well. Like Mr Ramaswamy, he has endorsed Mr Trump, although with a bit less fervour. The Florida governor reserved most of his passion for Ms Haley – and not in a good way.

He called the former US ambassador to the UN part of “the old Republican guard of yesteryear – a repackaged form of warmed-over corporatism”. It was a line of attack – Haley the elite-loving globalist – that has been the centrepiece of Mr Trump’s attack on his former Cabinet member over the past few days.

It took six days for the DeSantis campaign to churn through the stages of political grief and arrive at acceptance. But his decision to back out when he did, and the way he did, might have helped sealed Mr Trump’s victory.

That, and the fact that Trump has had more support from the Republican nominating electorate than all of the other candidates combined, surely had something to do with it.

Regardless, unless Haley somehow mounts a shocking win—or even a very close second—in New Hampshire, I don’t see what point there is in continuing the campaign. In 2016, it was at least plausible that the base might have united behind a “traditional” Republican candidate if the field had shaken out quickly enough. This time, it winnowed to two candidates after one contest. Alas, there was only one with a change to win all along.

FILED UNDER: 2024 Election, US Politics, , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Sleeping Dog says:

    If Haley manages to eke out a win, the subsequent trump melt down will be worth it. But she won’t.

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  2. MarkedMan says:

    I think you are looking at this from the wrong perspective. Trump is essentially the incumbent and he had a tough time getting 50% of the vote with one of the most rabidly red primary electorates. I’m not saying he won’t be the nominee (far from it) but that showed weakness.

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  3. JKB says:

    Yeah, unless Haley upsets, all the fun in this primary is going to be with the Democrats. Joe declined from filing so he isn’t on the ballot. Then his campaign discovered that the NH primary was required by the NH constitution so the scheduling shenanigans backfired.

    But when Democratic voters enter polling stations Tuesday, they will find a wall of unfamiliar names on the ballot. And they will be faced with a choice: pick from the nearly two dozen names of candidates running for the nomination, or take the write-in option. If they want to support President Joe Biden, the incumbent who declined to file to be on the New Hampshire ballot, they will have to write in his name.

    So here’s a primer for what to expect as a voter in an unusual primary, and how we got to this point.

    Who is running?
    The Democratic field can be split into three categories.

    There’s Biden, who is not on the ballot but whose supporters have mounted a write-in campaign.

    There are two prominent challengers to Biden: Rep. Dean Phillips, a Minnesota Democrat, and Marianne Williamson, an author who ran for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020.

    And then there’s a slew of lesser known candidates

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  4. Kathy says:

    This is like if a high school bully decided to whale on the first grade bully. We know who will win, and the only question is how badly the younger bully will be hurt.

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  5. Michael Reynolds says:

    @JKB:
    There are no real challengers to Biden, don’t be ridiculous. Interesting that MAGAts are evidently hoping for Joe to be upset, given that you maintain he’s easily beatable by Orange Jesus. You should be praying for Joe to breeze to the nom. Right?

    By the way, what is your position on the effect of tap water on magnets? And do you also blame Nikki Haley for the poor security on October 6? Person, woman, man, camera, TV? He’s still proud that he passed the test they give to stroke victims! Stable genius!

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  6. Jen says:

    @JKB: Have you seen some of the video of Trump from his speeches in NH? He is not making any sense at all. Have you listened to the audio from his speech in Laconia?

    He’s not well. Republicans will nominate him, then what? My guess is he’ll refuse to debate, and will probably forego campaigning, because he’s not going to be physically or mentally able to handle it.

    @Sleeping Dog: The meltdown would be priceless, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.

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  7. Kathy says:

    @Jen:

    I fail to see how Lardass can avoid debating Biden.

    I mean, sure his basket case of deplorables will cheer him if he doesn’t; they’d cheer him if he took a dump on stage, then deny it happened. But to most people, it would look like he’s scared to debate.

    Maybe he can take some of the debate enhancing drugs he accused Biden of taking in 2020?

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  8. Sleeping Dog says:

    To reinforce what our gracious hosts have been saying about the comical system that we use to select leadership, I just returned from voting in the primary, on the Dem ballot, there were 21, count them 21 candidates to chose from, but I wrote in Joe.

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  9. DK says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I’m not saying he won’t be the nominee (far from it) but that showed weakness.

    Just the continuation of a electoral trend we’ve seen all of 2023: Republicans have a Trump-fueled turnout problem. He can bring out the deplorables, but not the rest of the Republican tent. The Democratic and anti-MAGA electorate has been more motivated in recent elections, to stick it to Republicans for their extremism.

    What this means for the presidential race is TBD, as those same voters appear less enthusiastic about Biden. This could be the first year downballot candidates carry the presidential candidate, not vice-versa.

    The growing questions around Trump’s mental fitness due to his word salad rambling is a gift to the Biden campaign, and his surrogates are pouncing. Their new ad about how forced birth can laws kill women with pregnancy complications — and flat out blaming Trump for the end of Roe — is scorching hot, too. You know it hit the mark, because Republicans are furious about it.

    The Old Man did not come to play in 2024. We love to see it.

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  10. mattbernius says:

    @JKB:

    Joe declined from filing so he isn’t on the ballot. Then his campaign discovered that the NH primary was required by the NH constitution so the scheduling shenanigans backfired.

    As always, you seem to tell only half the story and include a lot of inaccurate information. This was part of a long-standing plan to try and shift the Democratic Primary schedule away from states that no longer (if ever) represented the coalition that made up the Democratic party:

    As part of a plan to reshuffle the long-standing party lineup, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) set forth a new schedule that booted New Hampshire from its first-place slot, moving up South Carolina’s primary to kick off the voting process.

    The Biden-backed shake-up was intended to add more diversity to the party’s calendar, boosting voices of color by putting more demographically diverse states earlier in the timeline. States that vote or caucus first are widely seen as key to the trajectory and momentum of the cycle.

    “Too often over the past fifty years, candidates have dropped out or had their candidacies marginalized by the press and pundits because of poor performances in small states early in the process before voters of color cast a vote,” Biden wrote in a 2022 letter to the DNC.

    After New Hampshire’s move to hold the January primary, Biden decided not to file to put his name on the state’s ballot.

    The state would normally have determined the allocation of the state’s 23 pledged delegates, but the DNC says there are zero delegates up for grabs in Tuesday’s contest.

    source: https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/4418655-biden-new-hampshire-democratic-primary-ballot/

    So it wasn’t a mistake.

    Also, FWIW it was a law, not part of the State constitution:
    https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/4418655-biden-new-hampshire-democratic-primary-ballot/

    This is, more than anything else, a bit of interparty conflict as it’s the State’s Republican Governor and Secretary of State pushing to keep the date and suing the DNC.

    That said, NH democrats also take a lot of pride in being first in the nation. Insert Steven Taylor comment about weak US political parties here.

    [note: BTW, another example of weak US political parties is that the Republicans appear to be on the cusp of having their nominee after voting in two of the least populated and diverse states in the US and said candidate refused to participate in any RNC debates]

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  11. gVOR10 says:

    @mattbernius:

    As always, you seem to tell only half the story and include a lot of inaccurate information.

    To be fair, that’s what he gets from his sources of information.

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  12. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Good ole Vermin Supreme was one of them, was he not?

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  13. Kylopod says:

    Remember when Pat Buchanan “won” the NH primary against incumbent George H.W. Bush by losing to him by only 15 points? I think that’s sort of what Republicans are hoping for with Joe Biden tonight. Of course, they’ll spin anything. If he wins “only” 61% of the vote (as one recent poll shows), that means 39% don’t want him–bad!

    It’s both a blessing and a curse that the MSM pays a lot more attention to Trump than Biden, which is why I don’t expect the Democratic results tonight to get much traction. But the inevitable “Biden is doomed because of the NH results!” pieces will be there–you bet your bottom ruble.

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  14. Mikey says:

    @gVOR10: Pretty much the apotheosis of “garbage in, garbage out.”

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  15. Sleeping Dog says:

    @CSK:

    I really didn’t look at the names, but I’d bet lunch he was there. There’s a guy from Portsmouth that is in every ballot for prez, senator or gov, and he was there.

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  16. DK says:

    @mattbernius:

    BTW, another example of weak US political parties is that the Republicans appear to be on the cusp of having their nominee after voting in two of the least populated and diverse states in the US and said candidate refused to participate in any RNC debates

    Still don’t quite get how Republican voters preferring Trump — a twice-nominated former Republican president — to challengers preferred by the so-called establishment = the Republican Party is ipso facto weak. Unless the meaning of ‘weak’ here is ‘when educated white voters can’t control the process and don’t get their way.’

    If populous, diverse states New York or California held primary contests, Trump would still be winning. Because no matter how much wealthy donors, traditionalists, and college-degreed politicos may not like it, Trump is the Republican now. And the Republican Party is Trump.

    Is the “weakness” a reference to the notion Trump is a weak candidate? There’s an argument for that. But Mitt Romney and John McCain never won the White House either. Trump did, and polls say he might return. He doesn’t seem that weak compared to the types of candidates who’d emerge from a proverbial smoke-filled. Doesn’t seem Burgum, Hutchinson, DeSantis, or Haley would be much stronger.

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  17. DK says:

    @gVOR10: Sources of disinformation?

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  18. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @DK: My understanding of “weak party” is that it has little/no control over how its membership, candidates, and policies form. Specific example: Cracker is a long-term, hard-core, Calvinist, fundamentalist who doesn’t believe in a woman’s right to choose–anything (including who or even whether she will marry or how many children to give birth to), believes that you, Beth, and Stormy belong in the closet (or jail, if you’d prefer), has never voted for a Democrat in his life, was raised in a John Birch family, holds firmly to lost cause beliefs and contributes to organizations supporting them, has never supported the Democratic Party in any tangible ways, and has decided to run as for Senate as a Democrat because his state is D +14.

    The fact that the party organization cannot stop him from running is what makes the party “weak.” If Cracker happens to have fame from some other endeavor and is rich enough to self-finance, it’s possible for him to win and become the new Kristen Sinema/Joe Manchin because a “weak party” system is not able to say “Wait, you can’t run as a Democrat! You’re not even a member of our party!” because Cracker became a Democrat when he declared himself one.

    Even the Unitarian Church is harder to join than that.

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  19. Gustopher says:

    @DK:

    Unless the meaning of ‘weak’ here is ‘when educated white voters can’t control the process and don’t get their way.’

    Having read many of Dr. Taylor’s posts and comments on weak parties, I think it means that the party leaders cannot control who the candidate will be, or even put a significant veto on a candidate. So, not the educated white voters, but the existing office holders.

    And then Trump comes along and puts a lot of standard Republican orthodoxy on its head, wins the nomination and election, and changes the party as a whole, while taking over the infrastructure.

    The party cannot control its own identity.

    Success in elections is another factor.

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  20. Jen says:

    @mattbernius:

    [note: BTW, another example of weak US political parties is that the Republicans appear to be on the cusp of having their nominee after voting in two of the least populated and diverse states in the US and said candidate refused to participate in any RNC debates]

    An acquaintance has been making a similar argument, and I’m not quite sure what you mean by this. Trump still needs to get the required number of delegates. Are you simply implying that he’s leading everywhere else? Because that was the case no matter where the first contest was held. They could have started the primaries in Georgia or South Carolina or Florida–Trump’s leading everywhere. I don’t get this “he’s almost the nominee based on two small states” argument. He’s almost the nominee because he’s leading everywhere, and any opponents have scurried off, with one exception, who will likely have her @ss handed to her in her home state.

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  21. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: In Trump’s case I’m inclined to think it was less “puts a lot of standard Republican orthodoxy on its head” and more “says the dog whistle parts out loud.” YMMV. There’s very little Trump-originated stuff from 2016-2020. There’s very little Trump-originated stuff from any other set of randomly selected years from 1946 to the present, for that matter.

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  22. Mister Bluster says:

    Sample New Hampshire Democratic Presidential Primary Election Ballot

    21 candidates representing 10 states and DC.
    Not sure how names are arranged on the ballot. I’m guessing first come first served since names are not alphabetical.
    Dean Phillips is towards the bottom.

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  23. CSK says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    Paperboy Love Prince sounds like a sure winner.

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  24. Jen says:

    @Mister Bluster: By NH law, names listed follow a rotation, determined by the random selection of a seed number.

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  25. DrDaveT says:

    @Jen:

    I don’t get this “he’s almost the nominee based on two small states” argument. He’s almost the nominee because he’s leading everywhere

    If we know enough about his lead everywhere to not need to hold a primary, why are we going to all that bother?

    I think the real question, though, is “would all of those other candidates have dropped out by now if the first two primaries were California and Texas?”

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  26. Kathy says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    It must either be very cheap and easy to file a candidacy for president in NH, or people get paid to run in the primary.

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  27. Jen says:

    @DrDaveT:

    I think the real question, though, is “would all of those other candidates have dropped out by now if the first two primaries were California and Texas?”

    This is what I’m really struggling with, because yes? Of course?

    California has 169 delegates. If any candidate gets more than 50% of the primary vote, he or she gets ALL 169 delegates. Trump is leading there. So, yeah, there’s even more of an incentive to drop out when it’s 50% gets all of the delegates AND you’re trying to compete in one of the most expensive media markets in the country. Most of the Republican candidates wouldn’t have been able to compete in California. At all.

    Texas is a little different, because AFAIK, they apportion their delegates by percentage of the vote. Again, though, is the challenge of media markets. In order to be competitive, Republican candidates would be paying for Dallas, Houston, and Austin media markets–a bit more expensive than Des Moines or Manchester NH.

    Small states are more competitive for lesser-known candidates.

    Editing to add: Campaigning is far, far more than slapping your name on the ballot and hoping for a good outcome. You need to set up a state infrastructure. Candidates travel across the state, you set up field offices and hire people and make ad buys on cable and tv markets, and set up meetings with businesses and influential party people…all while traveling in vehicles eating crappy food.

    It. Costs. A. LOT. Of. Money. More so in bigger states. Like…Texas and California. You’re making an argument that gets crushed by the financials.

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  28. DK says:

    @Gustopher:

    The party cannot control its own identity.

    Success in elections is another factor.

    Ah, okay, this helps me understand a bit.

    I guess I would say party identities are not static, and that even a party’s elected officials ultimately bend to its rank-and-file, sooner or later.

    I don’t know that I’d necessarily cede the point that a party’s “leaders” are defined as its electeds — rather than the voters behind those electeds.

    For example, the party’s elected officials could have rejected and even blocked Trump. They could have endorsed Hillary in 2016, or they could have voted to impeach and remove Trump ahead of 2020, or voted to impeach and convict Trump in 2021 — blocking him from future eligibility.

    They chose not to in part because a party’s real power always sits with its rank-and-file voters. And Republican voters would not have allowed any of the above the above scenarios. What could the party’s “leaders” have done to keep Wyoming voters from turning on Liz Cheney? Republican voters wanted what Trump was selling. And he was not shy of official endorsements early on in 2015-16.

    Does this mean that a party’s elected officials are “weak?” I guess. But there appears to be no actionable or realistic alternative in the face of voter strength. A political party and its elected are ultimately defined and controlled by its members.

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  29. Mister Bluster says:

    @CSK:..paperboy

    To supplement my retirement income I have a newspaper delivery route just like I did when I was in grade school. So I guess that I would have to give this candidate at least a look at their campaign if I were voting in New Hampshire today. However I live in Illinois. Can’t wait to see how many votes go for PLP.

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  30. CSK says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    So far, Paperboy has garnered a whopping 13 votes.

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  31. CSK says:

    Trump is beating Haley in NH, 53.16 – 45.94 percent.

    ETA: Haley has conceded.

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  32. Mister Bluster says:

    @Jen:..random…rotation…

    Thank you for the link.
    I’m sure that if I read it enough times I’ll figure it out.

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  33. EddieInCA says:

    @CSK:

    Trump is beating Haley in NH, 53.16 – 45.94 percent.

    The networks called it within 10 mins of polls closing. That means it’s a 10-15+ Trump win. Not gonna be close.

    Meanwhile, then called Biden even faster. And he’s not on the ballot. The write in campaign worked. Dean Phillips should go home.

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  34. Mister Bluster says:

    @CSK:..13 votes…

    Most likely from subscribers whose Sunday paper did not land in a ditch full of rainwater on delivery.

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  35. CSK says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    Oh, no doubt.

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  36. Mister Bluster says:

    @Kathy:

    I can’t find the link now but earlier I saw information about how someone who could not afford the filing fees might qualify for assistance from the state to get on a ballot in New Hampshire.

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  37. @MarkedMan: I had a similar thought a little while ago.

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  38. Kathy says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    And here I thought I was being sarcastic…

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  39. anjin-san says:

    I see Haley as the more dangerous opponent for Biden, I’m not sure that Republicans should be cheering this outcome.

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  40. Gustopher says:

    Looks like Trump is getting 54%, which is just slightly higher than George HW Bush in 1992. Haley’s 43% beats Buchanan’s 38% that year.

    According to WaPo, Trump got 34-38% of independents (registered as, or identifying as), 33% of those deciding who to vote for in the last month, and 21% of those who believe Joe Biden won in 2020.

    As a sort-of incumbent, that doesn’t sound like a great success for Trump. He’ll get the nomination, of course, but it’s not like people other than his hardcore base actually like him.

    He wasn’t able to close the deal with people who were undecided, and people who aren’t buying the lies about the election seem to be almost physically repulsed by him. All this in a contested primary.

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  41. Kathy says:

    “Whatever, dude. If I lose, I go home and get to try again in 4 years. You get to go to prison for the rest of your life.”

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  42. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @Kathy:

    “Whatever, dude. If I lose, I go home and get to try again in 4 years. You get to go to prison for the rest of your life.”

    Funny.

    But realistically we all know what will happen: Yes, Trump will be found guilty. There are too many charges for him not to be found guilty.

    But as one self-help group is fond of saying: don’t just consider the ____, think it all the way through to the outcomes.

    Yes, found guilty. But he won’t spend more than a week in jail / prison. The Biden Administration, the DOJ and the Trump atty’s will negotiate a Presidential pardon that is contingent on Trump leaving politics permanently.

    This will be hailed in the media as “the right thing to do” and a ” grand magnanimous gesture” that “protects both the office of the presidency and the legitimacy of our constitutional republic”.

    (This will shock many, as they will say: It is undeserved! Why do this when Trump Atty’s even argued that presidential assassinations should be allowed based on presidential immunity. Why show mercy?)

    And, of course, unlike Nixon, Trump just won’t be able to shut up… causing him to break the terms of his pardon. And his most rabid fans will somehow equate the pardon as an act even worse than a prison sentence.

    Further lawsuits and Supreme Court cases will ensue. Because the question is: what to do THEN?

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  43. Franklin says:

    @anjin-san: I’ve been saying that if the Republicans were smart enough to nominate Haley, they get the White House, no problem. Gaffes don’t matter much, it’s more like, will people show up to vote for somebody who appears to still be alive if the alternate is somebody stumbling towards the grave?

    Unfortunately, we won’t have that choice.

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  44. Matt says:

    @anjin-san: I agree. For the first time ever I’ve been rooting for Trump to win something (the nomination) because I believe he’s a much better opponent for Biden. I’ve had a couple women express interest in Haley despite their very liberal views. My response internally was basically “are you fcking insane??”. They absolutely hate the GOP and their policy yet here they are talking about voting for Nikki… I cannot tell if it’s because they grew up in a very red rural area and the indoctrination is strong or if it’s something else. It’s like the choice is republican policies you hate or the democratic policies you prefer but sure support the woman who will continue the GOP policies because Joe Biden is “old”or whatever. I assume it’s just the left over indoctrination from their younger years causing them to look for any excuse they can find to not vote democratic when it fcking matters. I have no idea how that will really transition to the general election as I can see Nikki looking kind of reasonable in the primary thanks to Trump (if you have a very shallow knowledge of policies).

    Whatever it is the media has done a great job of giving those types excuses to not vote democratic despite the GOP policy being against everything they “hold dear”. It’s so fcking irritating to hear these people latch on to the dumbest reasons to vote GOP instead of the party that aligns with their political policies and self interest…

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