As rivals drop out, could Donald Trump seal Republican nomination on Tuesday? | CBC News

The final visible flicker of resistance to Donald Trump in the Republican Party consists of little crowds like one in a high school library in the town of Derry, N.H.

People gathered over the weekend to hear Nikki Haley from an atypical cross-partisan coalition: Democrats, Independents and Republicans, all voting in Tuesday's New Hampshire primary. Drop down seal

As rivals drop out, could Donald Trump seal Republican nomination on Tuesday? | CBC News

She's the last person standing against Trump in the Republican presidential race after Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor, quit Sunday and endorsed Trump.

It could be the de-facto end of the Republican race if Haley, a former United Nations ambassador and South Carolina governor, loses the New Hampshire primary to her former boss, Trump.

This is the closest thing to a state tailor-made for Haley: it has relatively moderate Republicans and loose rules allowing anyone to participate. Independents can vote here, as can Democrats if they registered in time.

If she can't beat Trump here, his allies will argue, she can't beat him anywhere, and pressure will mount for her to step aside and let the former president start fighting the general election.

A political science professor from a nearby college in Massachusetts, who came to hear Haley in Derry on Sunday, described this primary as a chance to delay Trump's triumph.

"I'm hoping she'll slow [Trump] down, perhaps overtake him, put him in his place, if you will," said Rich Padova, an Independent who has mostly voted for Democrats in presidential elections.

Otherwise, if she loses badly on Tuesday, he said, "It could be the death knell."

Polls show Haley trailing Trump by a dozen points or more in New Hampshire, although it's hard to predict exactly how many non-Republicans might show up.

One Democrat elsewhere in the state said she's heard from a number of non-Republicans planning to vote in the primary in this unusual year, where national Democrats are boycotting their party's New Hampshire primary.

"Multiple people have brought it up to me," said Kerri Harrington, an acupuncturist running for a local council seat this year in Littleton, N.H.

"Just in conversation [people will say], 'We could actually turn this around and get Nikki a lot more votes and have Trump not do as well.'"

Harrington dropped in on a recent Haley event in her area and noticed how politically mixed the crowd was, with plenty of Democrats: "There was a lot of purple in that room."

Haley draws smaller crowds than Trump — much smaller.

A Trump campaign event on Saturday night saw thousands fill a college hockey arena, forcing police to redirect traffic around downtown Manchester, N.H.

Yet it remains the case that nearly half the Republican Party, in New Hampshire as in Iowa, would apparently rather nominate someone other than Trump.

"We're not a country of coronations," Haley said on Sunday, making the point that few people have voted so far and that there's no proof yet of a consensus for Trump.

"Can you hear that sound? That's the sound of a two-person race," Haley said at a boisterous rally later in the evening in Exeter, N.H., where she appeared with a celebrity supporter: Judith Sheindlin, also known as TV's Judge Judy.

Some diehard Republicans supporting Haley voiced their own reasons for seeking a Trump alternative.

Elaine Olundsen, for example, voted for Trump twice, liked much of what he did and would vote for him again against President Joe Biden.

"She's Trump without the baggage, the chaos and the legal entanglements," Olundsen said.

She cited two reasons for supporting Haley: the desire for less drama, but also a substantive policy issue, saying she appreciates Haley pushing back on Russian President Vladimir Putin and supporting Ukraine.

Eddy Smith of Auburn, N.H., voiced a similar view.

Even though he's prepared to support Trump again, Smith said he prefers Haley's foreign policy — closer to a traditional Republican approach that embraced American alliances.

"I like a muscular attitude in a very dangerous world right now," he said in an interview.

"I definitely think we have to support Israel. I definitely think we have to support Ukraine. And I think that if we don't, the dominoes are going to start to fall. And we're a domino. We're the end of the dominoes."

It may be getting too late to derail Trump.

A remark from the crowd during Haley's speech in the library hinted at one common complaint levelled against her and other candidates: that they were too timid, for too long, in attacking their party's unofficial leader.

Haley was going through her standard stump speech and arrived at a line where she laments that Trump keeps lying about her, so she'll tell the truth about him.

"Finally!" one member of the audience shouted.

Haley went on to say that Americans are exhausted. They want an alternative to Biden, who is unpopular and, she said, in mental decline. But she said they don't want the constant drama associated with Trump.

"Rightly or wrongly, chaos follows him. You know I'm right," she said. "And we can't have a country in disarray in a world on fire and go through four more years of chaos. We won't survive it."

Meanwhile, Trump is ramping up pressure for rivals to drop out.

He's being helped by the many elected officials who have endorsed him and are now using TV appearances to declare the race essentially over and saying it's time to unite.

Trump flaunted that dominance by inviting onto the stage in New Hampshire numerous politicians from Haley's home state and site of the next big primary contest: South Carolina.

The state's governor, lieutenant governor, Speaker of the House of Representatives, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott and others have been appearing with Trump at events.

The Scott endorsement, in particular, stung Trump-skeptical Republicans: He was first appointed to the Senate by Haley in 2012.

The pro-Trump crowd in Manchester booed references to Haley.

Trump pre-emptively brushed off any success Haley might have on Tuesday in New Hampshire. He blamed open primary rules, which exist in a number of states, where people don't have to be registered as supporters of the party in whose primary they vote.

"They want to get liberals and Biden supporters [to vote for Haley]," Trump said on Saturday.

"What the hell kind of Republican candidate is that?... They want to turn liberal voters into Republicans for about two minutes."

He said it's time for his party to unify, stop wasting resources on pointless primaries and start targeting Biden.

Trump may very well get his wish. Perhaps the only thing standing in his way is a Haley upset win on Tuesday, which would pause the coronation.

Alexander Panetta is a Washington-based correspondent for CBC News who has covered American politics and Canada-U.S. issues since 2013. He previously worked in Ottawa, Quebec City and internationally, reporting on politics, conflict, disaster and the Montreal Expos.

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As rivals drop out, could Donald Trump seal Republican nomination on Tuesday? | CBC News

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