Down to Trump in the polls on primary eve, Haley vows she’s ‘in this for the long haul’

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SALEM, N.H. – Nikki Haley, on the eve of New Hampshire’s Republican presidential primary, telling the overflow crowd in this border town with Massachusetts that “it’s almost Election Day. This is what we’ve been waiting for.”

“We’ve got a lot on the line here,” she emphasized.

With hours to go until the polls open, the former two-term South Carolina Gov. who later served as U.N. ambassador in Donald Trump’s administration was down by double digits in most of the public opinion surveys to the former president, who is the commanding front-runner for the GOP nomination as he makes his third straight White House run.

But Haley pledged in interviews with Fox News Digital and on Fox News’ “The Story” that she’s moving on to her home state regardless of her finish in New Hampshire. South Carolina’s Feb. 24 primary is the next major contest in the GOP nominating calendar following Tuesday’s showdown in New Hampshire. 

HALEY VS. TRUMP: WHERE THEY STAND IN THE FINAL POLLS AHEAD OF THE NEW HAMPSHIRE PRIMARY

“This is a marathon. It’s not a sprint. The political and media elite say everybody needs to coalesce around Donald Trump,” Haley told Fox News’ Martha MacCallum on Monday in Franklin, New Hampshire. “We don’t believe in coronations in this country. We believe in democracy. I’m in this for the long haul.” 

HALEY REVEALS HER PITCH TO DESANTIS SUPPORTERS 

And hours earlier, in a Fox News Digital interview ahead of her Sunday night rally in Exeter, New Hampshire, Haley said she’s”absolutely” continuing on the campaign trail to South Carolina.”

“I can’t wait to make sure that we go and have that homecoming. And then I’m going to fight every day to earn their support. South Carolinians are smart. They’re tough. They expect you to do your homework,” she emphasized. “But I’ve won there twice. I know what it takes to do that and we’ll do it again.”

Republican presidential candidate and former UN Ambassador and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley speaks during a campaign event at Exeter High School in Exeter, N.H., Sunday, Jan. 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Campaign manager Betsy Ankney told reporters on Saturday that Haley will hold a large event in her hometown of Charleston, South Carolina, on Wednesday, the same day that the campaign will launch a $4 million statewide ad blitz.

Trump scored a convincing victory in last Monday night’s low-turnout Iowa caucuses, the first contest on the GOP presidential nominating calendar. He grabbed 51% of the vote, 30 points ahead of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who narrowly edged out Haley for second place.

DOWN AND OUT: WHAT WENT WRONG WITH THE DESANTIS CAMPAIGN

But DeSantis, a distant third and hovering in the single digits in New Hampshire polling, dropped out of the race on Sunday and endorsed Trump, leaving the former president and Haley as the remaining two major candidates in the 2024 Republican race. 

The former president predicted another major win on Tuesday, telling supporters at a rally in Rochester, New Hampshire, on Sunday night that “I think we’re going to have the same kind of result here as we did last week in Iowa.”

However, New Hampshire — where independent voters who make up roughly 40% of the electorate can vote in either major party’s contest and have long played an influential role in the state’s storied presidential primary — may be fertile ground for Haley.

Wideshot of Trump speaking to audience

Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump addresses a campaign rally at the Rochester Opera House on January 21, 2024 in Rochester, New Hampshire.  (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The latest surveys indicate Trump dominating among registered Republicans, with Haley grabbing majority support among independents. However, there are likely more Republicans than independents who will vote in Tuesday’s GOP primary.

Veteran New Hampshire-based Republican consultant Jim Merrill told Fox News that DeSantis’ departure from the race “narrows Haley’s margin for error here. Many, if not most, of DeSantis voters are going to migrate over to Trump. And so it’s critical for her to do well in New Hampshire to give her some momentum heading into South Carolina.”

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Mike Dennehy, another longtime New Hampshire-based GOP strategist, was more blunt.

“I think it puts a nail in her coffin,” he said of Haley. “I don’t think she’ll be able to keep under 50%. And I think there’s a very good chance that Trump hits 60% on Tuesday, which will signal the end of the Haley campaign and virtually seal the deal for the Trump nomination.”

Haley, publicly brushing off the polls, made a last minute pitch, telling her supporters at the primary eve event in Salem to “go to the polls tomorrow and take five people with you.”

Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.

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