Trump’s Extraordinary Win In New Hampshire And The Painful Road Ahead

INSIDE: Nikki Haley ... Tim Scott ... Charles Osgood
TOPSHOT - Republican presidential hopeful and former US President Donald Trump gestures during an Election Night Party in Nashua, New Hampshire, on January 23, 2024. Donald Trump won the key New Hampshire primary Tue... TOPSHOT - Republican presidential hopeful and former US President Donald Trump gestures during an Election Night Party in Nashua, New Hampshire, on January 23, 2024. Donald Trump won the key New Hampshire primary Tuesday, moving him ever closer to locking in the Republican presidential nomination and securing an extraordinary White House rematch with Joe Biden. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP) (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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The Historic Moment

While last night’s coverage of New Hampshire reinforced that political journalism is not up to the task of covering the 2024 election, I should confess that I have no real idea how to cover a presidential campaign where the presumptive major party nominee is a former president who auto-couped, faces criminal indictments in four jurisdictions, promises to abuse the powers of the office he seeks to exact retribution against his perceived enemies, has no real policy interests or platform, and is bent on strongman rule if re-elected.

This is uncharted territory, and the usual campaign and election coverage is not suited to navigating it, fails to appreciate the seriousness of the moment, reinforces and celebrates Trump’s worst tendencies, and leaves voters ill-informed and under the illusion that this is somehow all normal.

Parsing Trump’s margin of victory in New Hampshire is absurdism. As my colleague Josh Marshall put it yesterday: “We’re talking about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin when there actually is no pin.” But political journalists held a goddamned hoedown last night on the head of that imaginary pin.

So let me just run through a quick list of things that made Trump’s victory in New Hampshire last night extraordinary:

  • In the modern era (and with rare exceptions, throughout U.S. history), presidents who lose re-election have no future political viability. The fact that Trump was able to maintain control of the GOP after his 2020 loss and has all but re-won his party’s nomination is highly unusual. Be skeptical anytime you see Trump called the “de facto incumbent.” That’s not normally how this works.
  • As the NYT points out, no Republican presidential candidate who was not a sitting president has ever won the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary back-to-back like Trump just did.
  • Trump narrowed the primary field to one opponent after Iowa, and then beat Nikki Haley by double digits in a New Hampshire primary with record turnout. New Hampshire was Haley’s best chance of winning anywhere, and she is now running on fumes with no clear path ahead. Who was the last non-incumbent to lock up the nomination this soon?

Those are just the purely political metrics. They don’t include the criminal charges for couping, mishandling classified documents, obstruction of justice, and cheating to win in 2016 by covering up his dalliance with a porn star. Good god.

On top of all of that, the criminal justice system is struggling mightily to hold Trump to account for the rule of law before the election. Its inability to respond to the current moment — even when its own very existence is potentially at stake — is something future generations will find bewildering. Let the record show that the current generation is bewildered, too.

Whatever Haley does in the short term, we’re in general election mode now. In some ways that is clarifying. It sharpens the mind on the choices before us. It eliminates clutter and sideshows. But political journalism is not ready for this. Neither is our court system. It’s going to be a long, bumpy, painful road to November.

No Dignity Left To Give

Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) leaves all his dignity on the field:

South Carolina is NOT Nikki Haley’s Firewall

Republican presidential hopeful and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks after results came in for the New Hampshire primaries during a watch party in Concord, New Hampshire, on January 23, 2024. Nikki Haley sought to warn Republican voters away from rival Donald Trump after he defeated her in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, saying nominating the controversial US ex-president would spell victory for Joe Biden in November. (Photo by Joseph Prezioso / AFP) (Photo by JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)

I’d be a little surprised if Nikki Haley sticks around to take it on the chin in her home state on Feb. 24. She’s trailing badly in the polls, and the pressure on her to drop out will only increase over the next month. To-wit:

RNC Ready To Move On To General Election

I Detect A Theme

Emphasis mine:

  • WSJ: Trump Won New Hampshire, but There Are Warning Signs for November
  • Politico: Trump’s New Hampshire win had some bright red warning signs
  • WSJ (same story): “Moreover, Trump in New Hampshire was carrying 33% of independent voters who chose to cast ballots in the GOP primary, another yellow warning light for his candidacy.”

2024 Ephemera

  • President Biden won the write-in vote in New Hampshire after the DNC desanctioned its primary at Biden’s behest to elevate South Carolina into “first primary” status.
  • O’Malley Dillon and senior adviser Mike Donilon are moving from the White House to top positions on Biden’s re-election campaign.
  • The Biden campaign is treating Trump’s win in new Hampshire as the kickoff of the general election campaign.

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Trump’s Gag Order In Jan. 6 Case Survives Appeal

The full D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals declined to rehear Donald Trump’s appeal of the gag order imposed on him in the Jan. 6 case.

Disqualification Clause Status Check

  • Massachusetts: Citing jurisdictional and procedural reasons, the Massachusetts State Ballot Law Commission dismissed a challenge to Donald Trump’s candidacy in the GOP primary under the Constitution’s Disqualification Clause.
  • Maine: The state’s highest court appears skeptical that it has jurisdiction to hear an appeal at this stage by Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, whose decision to remove Trump from the GOP primary ballot under the Disqualification Clause has been blocked by a lower court.

Interesting …

With New York Attorney General Letitia James seeking to ban Donald Trump for life from the New York real estate industry, she seized on a Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruling yesterday upholding a similar ban she won against Martin Shkreli in the pharmaceutical industry.

James immediately informed the judge in Trump’s civil trial of the ruling, which could be a factor as he considers his verdict in the just-finished trial, which is expected by the end of January.

Charles Osgood, 1933-2024

A quirky man from a different time. A proud anachronism. A reminder of what radio and TV could offer before it was polished to an homogenous sheen:

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