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State of the Race with Kasie Hunt
Trump To Face Haley One-On-One In New Hampshire After DeSantis Drops Out; Haley: "We Haven't Even Started With This Election Yet"; Biden Expected To Win New Hampshire As Write-In. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired January 22, 2024 - 11:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KASIE HUNT, CNN HOST, STATE OF THE RACE: Here in New Hampshire, two candidates left with one day to go. Republicans will soon hold their first-
in-the-nation primary, Donald Trump and Nikki Haley, the last two candidates standing after Ron DeSantis bowed out on Sunday. It is make or
break for Haley here in the Granite State, and she has leveled her strongest attacks at Trump yet, questioning his mental fitness and implying
he is "in decline", too little too late. Plus, the Democratic primary where Joe Biden is expected to easily win by a write-in campaign. I'll speak to
former New Hampshire Governor John Lynch about Biden's reelection message and the long shot challenge posed by Dean Phillips.
Good day, everyone. I'm Kasie Hunt to our viewers watching in the United States and around the world. It is 11 a.m. here in Amherst, New Hampshire.
It's Monday, January 22. There is just one day until the New Hampshire primary, and only 287 days until Election Day. This is today's State of the
And then there were two, with Ron DeSantis out, we now have a head-to-head matchup one day before the New Hampshire Republican primary. And in the
latest CNN poll, Donald Trump extends his lead over Nikki Haley to double digits, winning more than 50 percent of the vote. Trump welcomed that
endorsement from DeSantis, even promising to retire the Ron DeSanctimonious nickname that he had for the Florida Governor. Haley now has what she
wanted. She is the only one standing between Trump and his third GOP nomination. The fate of her campaign rests on her showing right here in the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know the political class wants to say that this race is over, and I know the political class
is saying everybody needs to get behind Trump. This is not a coronation. You had 56,000 people out of three million in Iowa vote for Donald Trump,
less than 1.5 percent of that state. We haven't even started with this election yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: All right. Let's welcome in Steve Duprey. He is the former Chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party, supporting Nikki Haley this time
around, and has of course been involved in Granite State primaries past for, I don't even know how many years. Steve, thank you so much for being
STEVE DUPREY, FORMER CHAIRMAN, NEW HAMPSHIRE REPUBLICAN PARTY, & NIKKI HALEY SUPPORTER: Glad to be here.
HUNT: I really appreciate your time. I think Nikki Haley tried to say there -- this is not a coronation. She, of course, was speaking about Donald
Trump. I love coming up here for this primary. The fact that unpredictable things can happen is one of the reasons why it is such a great place to do
politics in America. Can you convince me that something unexpected is going to happen here, Steve, because it really does seem like Donald Trump is on
a steady march to this nomination that is going to be really, really hard to derail?
DUPREY: Yeah. First, I would note that this is a very impressive and organized and disciplined campaign run by President Trump. In 2016, he ran
as a celebrity, really didn't have an organization. 2020, he was the incumbent. This year, he has one of the most sophisticated, best- run
presidential primary campaigns I've seen in my career. They're doing it all right. That's requite. I came to New Hampshire seven times last year and I
can't even count how many times he has been here already this year. So, they've run a good race.
Haley has done a very good job with a campaign starting from ground zero and trying to build up. Here is what I think her best shot is. Even though
the polls show Donald Trump very heavily favored by registered Republicans, some of those folks may stay home because they may think this race is over.
That could help Haley.
The second thing is, our Secretary of State, Dave Scanlon, has predicted that of the 350,000 undeclared voters, we will have a record turnout. As
you know, once that gets above 45 percent of independents turning out, that can really help Haley, and now that it's a one-on-one race, I think a lot
of people who are undeclared voters, who sometimes take a Democratic ballot will not bother to write-in Joe Biden because it's not really that much of
race there, and instead may take a ballot to vote for Haley. So, she has to count on independent and undeclared voters. The President is not correct
when he says they're Democrats because they tend to take Republican ballots, witness Chris Sununu and how popular and what overwhelming votes
HUNT: So, Steve, you mentioned it's now a one-on-one race. I mean, this is kind of the thing that for the last year a lot of -- those of us who
covered 2016 watched what happened there when there was a big field, and Donald Trump ultimately was able to do it consolidate the largest part of a
very splintered field.
The argument has been, well, if he can take on -- if someone can take him on one-on-one, then he will not have enough support in the party to win,
and that this other person, hypothetical, would be able to overcome him. We're now seeing Haley get that shot. But, we're not seeing any evidence
that the party is actually doing that. In fact, it seems like this might be a situation that's actually going to prove that Donald Trump does have
complete dominance here. Do you -- I mean, do you think that that's what this says? Did we just see the same dynamic in 2016 except compressed in
time? I mean, was there ever any real shot for someone else to take down Donald Trump?
DUPREY: I think in 2016 there was, I think, frankly, I was Chairman of the Debates Committee. We had 12 or 14 candidates, the way we tried to split
them up between stages. All of the candidates I talked to keep saying, I'm going to wait until it's just me and Donald Trump. And bingo, by the time
it gets to them, they were roadkill on the side of the road. I think in 2016 had there been a smaller field, it would have been tougher for Donald
Trump. But, let's be candid. He dominates the Republican Party. He is an incumbent President, effectively. The rules of all the different states
have been adapted to help him, which every incumbent does. And he has got a very solid base there.
So, I think it was different in 2016. If it had been a smaller field, he might not have made it. But now, it's been a very tough road for all these
candidates. Haley has done the best job of anybody, and we'll see. Tomorrow is definitely make or break for her. She is going to need a record turnout.
And then, after that, it's a very torturous road ahead. But, you got to admire her fighting spirit. Her whole theme of conservatism without chaos
and drama and tweeting, I think, appeals to a lot of people. We'll see how it turns out.
HUNT: Should she have taken that stronger message against Trump? We saw her take out of Iowa. Should that have happened earlier?
DUPREY: Yeah. I'm a believer that you got to punch back really hard when you're playing against somebody who likes to punch. Donald Trump is very
effective at using name calling. Look at what he did to Governor DeSantis to diminish his campaign right out of the gate. I think when you're taking
on somebody who has that kind of strong following, who is very good at social media, you need to punch hard and punch early. And I think probably
she should have done that. I do think she has done a very good job in her closing arguments, talking about debt, deficit. Those things matter up here
to Republicans. We're a very --
DUPREY: -- conservative state fiscally. She just -- I'm a believer in going on offense. And I think maybe she was a little reluctant earlier on, but
she is making a great closing case and working hard.
HUNT: Very interesting. All right. Steve, stick around. I want to bring our panel in here. Republican Strategist Jim Merrill, and Michelle Price,
National Politics Reporter for the Associate Press, both with me here in Amherst. Thank you, guys, both for being here.
Let me start with you, Jim. You sort of ran the state for Mitt Romney, which was I think when we first met each other back in 2012. You've seen it
all as well. You heard what Steve had to say about how this primary has played out. How do you see it? I mean, what does Nikki Haley need to do,
and what do you -- how do you expect her to perform tomorrow?
JIM MERRILL, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yeah. I mean, she has got to make sure that the vote mix is heavily undeclared. Right? I mean, Donald Trump does
well with Republicans. We know that. She does well with undeclared. And I think if tomorrow's vote mix gets down to a maybe 45 percent undeclared
turnout, and we get a large turnout, like the Secretary of State has predicted, she could do well and surprise here, and the polls may not be
picking that up. Look, she made an investment in New Hampshire almost a year ago. She spent a lot of time here. She has campaigned the right way,
the New Hampshire way. And I think that's built her a broad base of support.
So, she has climbed one steep hill by outlasting everybody else. Now, she has got to overcome Trump, who does have more strength here than he did in
HUNT: Michelle, you've been on the ground here since the Iowa caucus. You've sort of gotten a sense with your own eyes and ears of how things are
playing here. What has stood out to you as you've covered the candidates in these final days?
MICHELLE PRICE, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: I mean, what has stood out to me is the passion that -- we've known this for a long
time, the passion that Trump supporters have. He is having these rallies every night. It's very cold. And the people showing up had been waiting in
line for hours, sometimes nine in the morning, to see him at seven, eight at night. That's the kind of thing that his campaign is counting on people
to turn out, the base Republican supporters. Whereas Nikki Haley, like Steve said, she has got to get these undeclared out, but she has got to get
a record number of undeclared voters out, kind of getting people who may not want to participate normally, get them engaged, get them to vote for
So, she has got a tougher hill to climb, and she is trying to build that enthusiasm on the fly as we approach Tuesday.
HUNT: So, as -- this is happening all here on the ground. You also have kind of in the background the Trump campaign, not even in the background,
but elsewhere in the country. They're working in Washington, in Haley's -- excuse me, Haley's home state of South Carolina, to try to rack up these
endorsements. Take a look at what Nikki Haley had to say about the sort of increasingly long list of endorsements that Trump is rolling out. This was
Haley on Sunday in Exeter, New Hampshire.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HALEY: You've got Trump saying, Oh, but look at all these congressional endorsements I have. I don't want political -- I don't want the political
elite. That's not what I'm looking for. And they honestly aren't ready for me. Why? Because I keep saying we need to have term limits in Washington,
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: So, she says that I don't want the political elite. But, Jim, I mean, to a certain extent, this has contributed to him. I'm interested to know
how you think this is going to play with voters in New Hampshire --
HUNT: -- to create this sense of inevitability, to create this idea that this is over.
MERRILL: Well, it's clearly the Trump strategy, right, is to create a sense of inevitability and hopefully run up a big margin here in New Hampshire
tomorrow night, declare victory and go home and take the fight to Joe Biden. I mean, they would like to end this campaign after New Hampshire.
And so, you see this consolidation occurring with some prominent leaders in South Carolina and elsewhere endorsing Donald Trump. And so, I think from
Nikki Haley's perspective, she is trying to pump the brakes and say, listen, let's, give New Hampshire voters a chance to speak, and then let's
see where we are.
And I think from her perspective, if she does well here tomorrow night, she has got a case to go, a strong case to go on to her home state of South
Carolina. But, make no mistake, the Trump campaign, as Steve said, is much better organized than they were eight years ago. They're tough. They're
smart. They're tactical, and they're doing this to give Haley no option but to get out of the race after New Hampshire.
HUNT: Yeah, I mean, Michelle, how do you see this in terms of she has got this one-on-one race that she wanted, and honestly that a lot of people,
certainly, I've spent a ton of time reporting on thinking about wondering what would happen if there was a single candidate to take on Donald Trump
at this stage. She has got it. But, instead of being a situation where it seems like Ron DeSantis leaving has helped her, it seems like the opposite
PRICE: Yeah. It seems like those voters are more likely to fall into Trump's category. But, there is some small exceptions on the margin. But,
generally, those people, they're ideologically aligned with Trump. That's where they're going to go. So, the expectation is, like, Nikki Haley is
doing everything we would have expected to be a strong one-on-one candidate. She is going after him. She is criticizing him. It took her a
long time to get here, but she is doing it. But, whether she has enough time in these last few days to really push it over the edge, we'll just
find out tomorrow.
HUNT: Right. No, for sure. I mean, I think -- let's just button this conversation up because we had Nikki Haley -- was on CBS "Face the Nation"
on Sunday, and she sort of leveled a set of foreign policy critiques at Donald Trump that I -- she has sort of touched on in the past in this
campaign, which has really hammered them home lately. This was Nikki Haley talking about Putin and she and Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HALEY: He congratulated China's President Xi a dozen times after China gave us COVID. He congratulated the Chinese Communist Party on their 70th
anniversary. We don't congratulate the Communist Chinese party. I remember, at the United Nations, I had to sit him down and tell him to stop this
bromance with Putin. I mean, you can't have someone who is trying to buddy up with dictators that want to kill us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Steve Duprey, can I go to you out of that and just kind of get your sense of -- she -- and we -- we were -- had a version of this conversation
just a second ago. But, I mean, this is the kind of thing, like, it's a platform she can stand on. It's a message that resonates particularly with
the national conservative or -- hawkish conservative wing of the Republican Party that's kind of an alienated in many ways under Donald Trump. Why are
we only hearing this the Sunday before the primary?
DUPREY: Well, I don't know why we're only hearing it this Sunday, because I think in New Hampshire where we have a very strong percentage of people who
either active military or retired military, it's a very pro-strong American foreign policy state. We lean that way. I think a majority of voters in the
state think we should be backing Ukraine strongly. I think she has done a good job pointing out that difference. I think she could have been more
aggressive earlier on and saying, I'll have a foreign policy where I don't engage in name calling with our allies, and I show consistency and make no
doubt about it. Putin is a thug who needs to be stopped.
I mean, that was John McCain's whole theme back when he was arguing for the surge, which was wildly unpopular with most voters, but they understood you
need to be aggressively strong and stand up for American ideals. I don't know why she didn't emphasize that more other than the fact that I think
people who are supporting Donald Trump and who are not ready to vote for Biden, President Biden, in the general election, are worried about the
economy, gas prices, food prices, inflation, in New Hampshire, housing shortage. The border has been a disaster. And I think that plays to
President Trump's strengths. So, I don't know why she didn't emphasize it earlier. I think it would play it up here, but it's not nearly as important
as the domestic issues.
HUNT: All right. Steve Duprey, Steve, thank you very much for your time. Best of luck tomorrow. Always appreciate your weighing in. Thank you.
Jim and Michelle are going to be back with us here in just a moment.
Let's not forget, tomorrow is also the Democratic primary in New Hampshire, but because of changes made by the Democratic National Committee, President
Biden isn't going to be on the ballot.
Just ahead, former New Hampshire Governor John Lynch joins me to discuss that.
HUNT: Welcome back to State of the Race. President Joe Biden is expected to win tomorrow's Democratic primary in New Hampshire pretty handily. A CNN
poll gives him 63 percent of the vote here in the Granite State. Here is the rub, though. He is not on the ballot here. So, Democrats have been
running a write-in campaign for him instead. It all stems from a dispute between officials in New Hampshire and the Democratic National Committee,
which stripped the state of its first-in-the-nation primary status.
John Lynch is the former Democratic Governor of New Hampshire, and he joins us here in Amherst to discuss this. Governor Lynch, thank you so much for
JOHN LYNCH, FORMER NEW HAMPSHIRE GOVERNOR: Well, thanks for having me on.
HUNT: So, we say that the DNC stripped New Hampshire of its first-in-the- nation status. I got to say, New Hampshire law says it is first-in-the- nation primary. Right? And so, you guys are going ahead here. Was it a mistake for the DNC to do this?
LYNCH: It was a big mistake. I am very disingenuous of them to ask us to change state law to begin with, which we can't do. New Hampshire has had
the first-in-the-nation primary for 100 years, and we take it very, very seriously. The voters go out of their way to get to know the candidates,
not only their position on issues, but also their temperament. They look them in the face. They ask them the tough questions. And I am convinced New
Hampshire will have the first-in-the-nation primary for another 100 years.
I'm very disappointed in the DNC. And we'll have the first-in-the-nation primary regardless of what the DNC does. The RNC may do in the future. The
White House does or future White Houses. It's in our DNA, and we'll keep it.
HUNT: What do you say to some of the critics who changed this calendar? Made South Carolina first, said that New Hampshire -- the voters of New
Hampshire don't represent the true diverse makeup of the United States, particularly the democratic electorate. What do you say to those critics?
LYNCH: I think we're a very diverse state. You look at our industrial sectors. We have very strong agriculture, travel and tourism,
manufacturing, high tech. We have an urban population, a rural population. People have very diverse points of view. Unlike South Carolina, we're
clearly a blue state where we can go either way, Democrat or Republican. So, I would say that we are a very diverse state.
HUNT: I mean, clearly a right state. South Carolina is clearly a right state.
LYNCH: Yeah. Yeah. Right state.
HUNT: OK. So, let me ask you about the primary that's unfolding here, because, obviously, it's not terribly competitive. We saw Dean Phillips
come up here, make an attempt. Joe Biden has been clearly the frontrunner. But, do you think he made a mistake by not putting his own name on the
ballot? Do you think there is any risk for him tomorrow?
LYNCH: Well, I think he did make a mistake. I don't know whether he is second guessing himself or not. I have not talked with him. So, I don't
know either what he is thinking now or seems to be wanting to go to South Carolina because he thought it was a more certain way to get the nomination
of the party. But, I think it was a mistake. The other concern that he should have is that our four electoral votes in the general election
matter. Going back to 2000, if Al Gore had won New Hampshire with our four electoral votes and he didn't win, because Ralph Nader was on the ballot
and took 22,000 votes away from Al Gore, Al Gore would have been elected President of the United States. So, our four electoral votes matter.
HUNT: Do you think that President Biden is the strongest nominee the Democratic Party could have fielded this time?
LYNCH: I don't know. He has proven that he can beat Donald Trump. I think there is real, real concern among Republicans, independents and Democrats,
that Trump could win reelection. So, I think Biden has proven that he is very strong. The other thing Biden has been able to do is put together a
really good, experienced and competent team, coming from the private sector and the public sector. I realized that none of us gets anything done just
by ourselves. We get things done by putting together a good team. And Biden has shown that he can do that. I certainly worry about Trump and who he
would surround himself with in another term.
HUNT: Fair enough. Can ask you also about abortion rights and reproductive rights? Democrats are framing this in the context, particularly of freedom.
How do you think that issue cuts in a general election here in New Hampshire? Is that something that galvanizes Democrats?
LYNCH: I think the issue of choice for women, I think it's a significant issue. I think it always comes in like in the top three. So, I think it's a
big issue in the general election. I firmly believe and, I know Joe Biden does, that the woman's decision should be between herself and her doctor,
and government should stay out of it, whether it's state government or federal government. Joe Biden believes that. With Donald Trump, I don't
know what he believes. It seems like it changes constantly. But, Biden is very strong with regard to that. And I do think it will be a major issue
among both women and men in the general election.
HUNT: When you talk to your friends, neighbors, contacts, throughout New Hampshire, what is your sense of what particularly undeclared's or
potentially Democrats who can change their registration on primary day to pull a ballot in the Republican primary? How do they view what's going on,
on that side? I mean, do they view -- is there an imperative to try and push Nikki Haley over the finish line to try to avoid Donald Trump? Or do
you feel like people do feel like it's important to write Joe Biden in to make sure that that stays where the President wants it to be?
LYNCH: A number of friends who are independents have told me they haven't decided yet. Now, it's the day before the election. They haven't decided
yet. But, I think some will, in fact, take a democratic ballot and write in Joe Biden's name. Others may decide to vote for Trump or Nikki Haley. It's
a big unknown going into. As you know, independents or undeclared's are the largest segment of our electorate, 40 percent. So, it's really unclear
what's going to happen.
HUNT: Yeah. For sure. It's the beauty of New Hampshire, right?
LYNCH: It is the beauty of New Hampshire.
HUNT: So, one sort of troubling, interesting development here late in the game is, and we're trying to get the sound of this robocall up so that
people can actually hear it.
We don't have it quite ready yet. But, we have reporting that there is a robocall going out that is -- has basically faked President Biden's voice,
and Democrats here in the state say that they've received it, that the aim is to suppress the vote. And what is your response when you hear that?
LYNCH: Well, I heard about that this morning for the first time, and I'm appalled. I'm aghast. It's a criminal act, and I hope the Attorney General
of New Hampshire really does a full investigation and finds out who is behind this.
HUNT: Do you think that this is something -- how do you think Democrats in your state should be preparing to deal with these kinds of things going
LYNCH: Well, I think, not only Democrats, but Republicans as well, and independents, I think the majority will dismiss it and be able to see
through it. But, that said, it's still a criminal act, and I hope it gets investigated thoroughly.
HUNT: All right. Former New Hampshire Governor John Lynch, governor, thank you so much --
LYNCH: Thanks, Kasie.
HUNT: -- for being with us, and thank you very much for welcoming us to your wonderful state.
LYNCH: Enjoy our great state.
HUNT: Fortunate to be here. We will.
All right. Up next, Vice President Kamala Harris is sitting down with CNN as she starts her nationwide "Fight for Reproductive Freedoms" tour in
Wisconsin, marking the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. She is going to speak with my colleague Laura Coates. That exclusive interview airs tonight at 11
On the Republican side, though, it is now a two-person race, and Nikki Haley is stepping up her attacks against Donald Trump, raising questions
about his mental fitness. We're going to have much more on that coming up next.
HUNT: Welcome back to State of the Race. I'm Kasie Hunt. We are live here in Amherst, New Hampshire. And of course, it's now a one-on-one race. With
Ron DeSantis dropping out, Nikki Haley, the only one standing in the way of Donald Trump winning the Republican presidential nomination.
She has been sharpening her attacks as New Hampshire's voters get ready for tomorrow's crucial primary. Haley is questioning Trump's mental fitness
after he appeared to confuse her with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: -- the crowd on January 6. You know Nikki Haley, Nikki Haley, Nikki Haley, you know, they -- do you know they
destroyed all of the information, all of the evidence, everything, deleted and destroyed all of it, all of it. Because of lots of things -- like Nikki
Haley is in charge of security. We offered her 10,000 people, soldiers, National Guard, whatever they want. They turned it down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Haley, of course, not even in Washington during the January 6 attacks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HALEY: The reality is he was confused. He was confused the same way he said Joe Biden was going to start World War Two. He was confused the same way
that he said he ran against President Obama. It was Hillary Clinton. These things happen because the more you age, it just does -- your -- you have
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: All right. I'm joined now by veteran Republican Strategist Tom Rath. Tom, it's wonderful to see you. Thank you so much for being here. Look,
you've seen it all here in the Granite State on the Republican side. You heard Nikki Haley there with attack on Donald Trump. Honestly, Ron DeSantis
had been making his campaign, anyways, super PAC had been making those kinds of attacks on Trump here in the -- at the end of the race. This was
really the first time we've heard her do it, though. And let me get you to weigh in on -- we were talking a little bit about this earlier with Duprey
and Jim. Is this too little too late for Nikki Haley in terms of going after Donald Trump?
TOM RATH, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Look, first of all, Kasie, it's great to be with you. You are missed and you're welcome back anytime. The --
HUNT: Thank you. I'm thrilled to be here.
RATH: -- is it too late -- mainly because my first primary here was 1964, and it was a race between Barry Goldwater and Nelson Rockefeller. And all
through that campaign, they went at each other like a house of fire. But, the Saturday before the primary on Tuesday, a group of folks in Concord
said we don't like either one of these guys. Let's do a write-in. And they wrote in Henry Cabot Lodge, and he won the primary with a write-in that
started on Saturday. And that was before robocalls and everything else. It just happened. So, that, not compare or quote from someone else, but that
period ain't over till it's over, and it certainly isn't over until people vote.
This is our most precious political possession, our voted in this primary. We don't give it away idly, and we don't give it away. We don't use it
until we absolutely have all the data in front of us and make the decision. The polls are interesting. The polls get a flip up and down. I can tell you
to think that you got to campaign in New Hampshire right to the end. People are paying attention right to the end. And until they walk in there and
take that piece of paper, they're still in play.
HUNT: Tom, thank you for that reminder. That's, again, another -- one of the reasons why New Hampshire has been just such a beloved political
tradition. What is your sense of how -- what are the last-minute decisions that are being made right now when you talk to friends, family, other
people who work in and around this? What's moving here in the final day?
RATH: Well, I don't talk to family because we want to stay family. Look, the biggest thing has been the (inaudible) field on the Republican side.
And I think it's gotten earlier for that field to shrink. Usually they make it through New Hampshire. So, your choices are thinning down. And two
things have happened. One people have gotten out and the race has become a choice between Donald Trump and Nikki Haley. And this is something that
doesn't always work here. We have the most politically engaged governor of a Republican Party that I've seen in a very, very long time, and he
happened to be Chris Sununu, who was also quite popular politically. So, that's a different factor than we've had in play. It's not going to change
everything, but certainly keeps his race going.
HUNT: All right. Tom, stick with us for a second. I want to bring into our conversation Republican Strategist Jim Merrill, AP Reporter Michelle Price.
Jim, Tom brought up Chris Sununu. He was on CNBC earlier today, trying to set expectations for Nikki Haley who he has been very aggressively
supporting here in the final weeks. Take a look at what Sununu said most recently.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS SUNUNU, NEW HAMPSHIRE GOVERNOR: -- get a strong finish in Iowa. The real goal is just to keep building on that so she can take more momentum
into her home state of South Carolina. New Hampshire has never been a must- win state for Nikki Haley. No one has ever said that. She just needs to show a lot of success and momentum and then build on that into South
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: So, Jim, do you agree with that? Do you think that -- I sort of -- I see this as a must-win state for Nikki Haley. But, tell me if you think I'm
MERRILL: I think if she doesn't win, she has got to come awfully close. Right? I think it's going to be close enough where it's clearly you've got
two equal peers that are competing and kind of splitting the vote here. And I think that could give her enough momentum to buy time for South Carolina.
I think it's hard to look at New Hampshire -- the impact in New Hampshire till 24 hours afterwards. Right? I mean, if she loses here by double
digits, and I think it's going to be difficult to make a case to go forward. If she wins, obviously, that changes the narrative. If it's within
a field goal, let's say, then I think it's at least arguable.
And I think the impetus for her campaign is going to be to try and convince people to give her some time and understand that Iowa was a very small
turnout, but in -- effectively is a general election turnout here for New Hampshire, she does very well. So, I think you can make the argument she
can go on, but it's got to be, I think, a really competitive close race here.
HUNT: Yeah. I mean, it's an important distinction to make, the difference between a caucus and the conservative electorate in Iowa versus one where
you really do get a much a much clearer sense of a wider variety of voters.
Michelle, when you talk to Haley aides, associates, when you're out at her events on the trail, I mean, how are they thinking about what they need to
do here in New Hampshire, and what the stakes are in South Carolina, which is her home state?
PRICE: I mean, they have definitely -- there has been some expectation lowering. Right? This was a state that -- it did seem like she was
expecting to win or do very, very well. And now, it's just like a strong -- build on her momentum going forward. But, we move to Nevada after this. She
is not even able to compete for delegates in that state because she is not participating in the caucus. Then we shoot to South Carolina. There is a
whole month in between New Hampshire and South Carolina. There is time to turn it around and build momentum, get those dollars from the donors
churning to try to boost her numbers in her own state. But, the way it looks right now today, she is losing her home state, and that's not a
position they want to be in.
HUNT: All right. And of course, Donald Trump has been here trying out various vice presidential candidates, it seems, Tim Scott, the South
Carolina Senator who was actually appointed by Nikki Haley. Elise Stefanik was here. Trump also had some words for -- there, of course, was some
speculation that Nikki Haley could be considered for Vice President. Perhaps that was why she wasn't being criticized -- she wasn't criticizing
Donald Trump as aggressively as she might have. But, here is what Donald Trump had to say about the chances of Nikki Haley being his Vice President.
After that, we'll show you what he had to say about Ron DeSantis, who of, course, just dropped out of the race and his chances of being Vice
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I don't want to rule people out. There is no reason to rule people out. But, I think it's highly unlikely. Well, it's probably unlikely. But,
I have to be honest, highly unlikely. I have a lot of great people. He endorsed me and I -- we have policies very similar, actually. I think those
people will all come to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: So, highly unlikely, Jim. This is -- I mean, this is a combination. Again, it's a little bit around similar to the endorsement strategy, but
making him look like he stands alone, right, and then also showing that loyalty litmus test is as the thing that really Donald Trump demands more
than anything. But, Ron DeSantis, of course, lined right up behind Donald Trump. I mean, if -- how do you compete in the face of that if you're Nikki
MERRILL: It's really difficult, because, again, you're competing with that sense of inevitability. And Republicans generally want to take the fight to
Joe Biden. And the longer the nomination fight goes on, the longer it is for you take that fight to Joe Biden. That's what I've heard endorsers in
recent days say about getting behind Donald Trump. Let's take the fight to Joe Biden. Now, let's also remember this also is happening in the context
of 2028. In New Hampshire, we like to talk about tomorrow and 2024. The reality is the next primary isn't that far around the corner, and
obviously, being Donald Trump's Vice President, if he is, in fact, the nominee, that's going to set that person up than looking ahead to 2028. And
so, there is a lot of backroom maneuvering right now happening as well, which is interesting.
HUNT: No. I mean, always, and people are always kind of looking around the next corner. I mean, Michelle, what do you see when you think about -- when
you look at all of this kind of vice presidential elbowing this way and that way? It doesn't seem like Nikki Haley is on the table there. But she,
obviously, served in the previous Trump administration. There is also the reality that as much as you know, Jim says and I take his point, people
will say, well, we got to start fighting Joe Biden. That's pretty standard fare as well when a party starts to consolidate. The reality is polls show
that Donald Trump is the Republican that's like most likely to lose to Joe Biden.
HUNT: And they still do have a shot at Haley.
PRICE: Right. And Haley has a shot, whether the Trump campaign or Donald Trump will think let's bring Haley on the ticket and try to take -- that's
our strongest ticket against Biden. I mean, it seems like at this point there is a lot of bad blood there. But also, we know -- one thing we know
about Donald Trump is he wants loyalty. Nikki Haley in this campaign is not showing loyalty. And what is kind of amazing as you look at all these
Republicans who are coming in and kind of auditioning for this is, we know how it turned out for Mike Pence and yet they are lining up for this job.
They still see this as a chance for success. 2028, it could set them up if they want to. They see this as the party of Trump going forward. They want
to ride the train.
HUNT: Yeah. No. To Mike Pence, it was a chance of hang Mike Pence in the halls of the Capitol at the end of the Trump administration after he spent
the entire administration kind of looking up at him at these very events.
Tom Rath, let me bring you in here to kind of cap off this conversation. What do you see -- you've seen --- as you point out, you've seen it all
from 1964. What is it about Donald Trump that is different from all these other political candidates that makes people be willing to sit out in the
cold for an entire day, waiting to see him in the evening? What is it that makes them treat political rallies, like Taylor Swift concerts? There is
just something about him that is different than so many of the politicians that you've seen way more of that, that I've covered in the years that I've
been up here doing this. What is it that drives that?
RATH: I don't think he is dating a football player the way Taylor Swift is. And secondly, this conversation reminds me of the famous political adage,
if you want a good friend in and politics, get a dog. Trump is different. He is unique. I wish those skills could be grafted on somebody else. He is
not burdened at all by the necessity to tell the truth, and that gives him a freedom that somehow he is able to use. He is helped --
HUNT: Why do believe him? You know, like --
RATH: I'm sorry.
HUNT: You're right that he is unburdened by a need to tell the truth. But, usually, voters in the past have said, when people do that, they've
punished them for it, and they won't punish Trump for it.
RATH: Well, I think because there -- he has struck a chord with part of the American population that feels the world has moved on from them and doesn't
care what they think about. It doesn't represent them. And because he is, frankly, glitzy in terms of his persona, television, the lifestyle, all
that, they say here is somebody with power who thinks like I do. The fact he doesn't think like they do. He thinks like, what do they want to hear
today, and I'll tell them that. But, the test of a person who is going to for President, generally, is the level and quality of their service through
their public career in politics, and he doesn't represent that.
But, there is also a group that feels no one listens to us. No one hears what we're saying. And to some extent, even if it's just performance art,
Trump pretends or comes across as listening to them. And I think that's the chord he has really tapped into.
HUNT: All right. Tom Rath, thank you very much for your perspective, sir. I really appreciate you being here. Our panel is going to be back in just a
bit for one more thing.
But, up next here, Democrat Dean Phillips is hoping to avoid a Biden-Trump rematch. He actually does agree with a lot of the country. Coming up, we're
going to talk to two New Hampshire state lawmakers, one who is backing Phillips long shot run, and the other who is standing with President Biden.
HUNT: Welcome back. Well, President Joe Biden is not on the ballot in New Hampshire tomorrow. Democratic challenger Congressman Dean Phillips is on
the ballot, and he is polling far behind Biden. Still, he raised eyebrows after he hinted at a possible third-party run during an event here in New
Hampshire this weekend. Now, he appears to be backtracking pretty quickly on those comments. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEAN PHILLIPS, U.S. DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm a Democrat. I've been a lifelong Democrat. I want to go help my party.
BRIAN KILMEADE, FOX NEWS HOST: You are a Democrat with No labels.
PHILLIPS: I know. I know there, and the Republicans will, No Labels. I am on a mission to defeat Donald Trump. I really do believe he is dangerous
for this country. I have great admiration for principled conservatives. I think Donald Trump is dangerous. I'm a Democrat. I'm going to run as a
Democrat, and I'm going to win as a Democrat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: OK. With me now two New Hampshire Democratic State Representatives, Steve Shurtleff who is supporting Dean Phillips, and Angela Brennan who is
backing President Biden here in the Granite State. Thank you both for being here.
STEVE SHURTLEFF, NEW HAMPSHIRE STATE HOUSE: Thank you.
ANGELA BRENNAN, NEW HAMPSHIRE STATE HOUSE: Thank you.
HUNT: Steve, let me just start with you, because this is a very long shot campaign. There have been many, many people. I've spoken to Dean Phillips.
I came up here and interviewed him a couple of weeks ago, months ago, maybe now. And he -- the entire Washington establishment, there was a lot of
backlash, which he has talked quite a bit about. They say that he is hurting the Democratic President, making it harder for Joe Biden to defeat
Donald Trump if Trump is the Republican nominee. What do you say to those critics?
SHURTLEFF: I disagree. I think the fact that Dean Phillips got into this campaign, forced the President to start the write-in campaign in the
Granite State, and I think that's healthy for democracy and I think it's healthy for the New Hampshire primary. The fact that the President has had
nine Cabinet Secretaries come up to New Hampshire in the last week on official business, but to help, I'm sure, to help the President's written-
in the effort. That's a positive thing. And if nothing else, one of the biggest winners in this whole thing will be the Democratic voters in the
New Hampshire primary.
HUNT: I mean, to that point, do you think you're supporting the President? Do you think it was a mistake for them to remove -- to move New Hampshire
to take away the first-in-the-nation primary? I mean -- and how do you explain to your fellow voters up here when they say, hey, you know, what
happened with that?
BRENNAN: Thank you. We really are focused on driving home the message about how easy it is to write in Joe Biden at the bottom of the Democratic ballot
tomorrow, what happens with the DNC in New Hampshire, that's party politics. We're not bothered with that. We have a state law that requires
the Secretary of State to set our primary date before any other, and we are a nation of law and order, and we will follow the law.
HUNT: What is your -- what would you say to independent/undeclared voters who are trying to decide whether they want to vote in the Democratic
primary, the Republican primary? Is there any concern at all among supporters of President Biden that so many will want to back Nikki Haley in
the Republican primary, that there might be trouble for Joe Biden?
BRENNAN: Our team of write-in Biden volunteers have been speaking with voters face to face all across the Granite State. And what we're seeing is
an enthusiasm for Joe Biden. They understand the stakes of this critical election here and that we really have a choice between democracy and
dictatorship. I trust Granite Staters will focus on the big picture and pull that democratic ballot tomorrow and write in Joe Biden.
HUNT: So, I want to talk to both of you about some news we have breaking this morning, which is some of your fellow New Hampshire Democrats are
concerned about a robocall that has gone out here in the Granite State. It is -- and I want to underscore, because we are going to play it for you.
It's going to sound a lot like President Biden. It is not President Biden on the recording. It is digitally manufactured. But, I will play it for
you. It is clearly designed to try to suppress the Democratic vote here in New Hampshire. Listen to this, and then I'll tell you what the Biden
campaign had to say about it on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FAKE JOE BIDEN ROBOCALL: Republicans have been trying to push nonpartisan and Democratic voters to participate in their primary. What a bunch of
malarkey. We know the value of voting democratic when our votes count. It's important that you save your vote for the November election. Voting this
Tuesday only enables the Republicans in their quest to elect Donald Trump again. Your vote makes a difference in November, not this Tuesday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: So, again, we want to underscore, that sounded a lot like President Biden. That was not actually President Biden reading those words. Something
to remember as we all, as a nation heading into a general election season, just how easy it may be to be fooled by material that you come across in
your own voicemail box, let alone online, in your email, etc. This is going to be one of the critical tests for all of us for our democracy going
Here is what the Biden campaign had to say about this call. They condemned it and said they're talking about additional actions. "This matter has
already been referred to the New Hampshire Attorney General. The campaign is actively discussing additional actions to take immediately. Spreading
disinformation to suppress voting and deliberately undermine free and fair elections will not stand and fighting back against any attempt to undermine
our democracy will continue to be a top priority for this campaign."
So, to both of you, but Steve, let me start with you, have you received this robocall? What do you say to that?
SHURTLEFF: I haven't received it. And I'm a registered Democrat. It's outrageous. It's so inappropriate and so contrary to our values here in the
Granite State. We've had this happen in the past elections with third parties that have done things like this. And it's a shame. It just takes
away and detracts from the importance of the New Hampshire primary. And I hope, as has been said by others, that the Attorney General looks in it and
charge somebody with suppressing the vote.
HUNT: All right. Steve, I'm so sorry, Angela. We are out of time here. But, I want to thank both of you so much for joining me today for a great
conversation. It's always wonderful to be on the ground in New Hampshire for this wonderful tradition.
It's time for a quick break here. But, stay with us. Our panel is going to be back with one more thing.
HUNT: Welcome back to State of the Race. Our panel rejoins, because before we go, we always ask for one more thing, and let's stick to the campaign
trail today. What are you watching for in the coming days? 30 seconds. Michelle.
PRICE: Where are the donors, the big donors who have opposed Trump and the candidates who have opposed Trump like Chris Christie? What are they going
to do after New Hampshire? Are they going to get in line behind Trump? Are they going to go support No Labels? Are they going to jump in and support
Joe Biden? Are they just going to stay out this cycle? I want to see those early moves and tell us something about how the general election is going
HUNT: A really important question. Jim, what are you watching?
MERRILL: Listen, I'm looking forward these last 24 hours, what towns that the candidates are going to be in, what diners, what restaurants, what
I've heard Nikki Haley (inaudible) backyard brewery today. This is quintessential in New Hampshire politics, Americana. So, whatever happens
tomorrow, let's soak it up. It's going to be a great ride.
HUNT: I know. I have to say I love it. It's great. And I will say I'm looking to see what Nikki Haley does as she goes on from New Hampshire. If
she does manage to pull out a win here, much more likely should stay into her home state of South Carolina. If she doesn't, will she risk continuing
to take on Donald Trump there, risking a loss potentially in her home state? But, as Jim says, this is the absolute the campaign trail at its
best. We're always thrilled to be here in New Hampshire.
And I want to thank all of you for joining us and watching today. I am Kasie Hunt. That's the State of the Race for today, Monday, January 22. You
can always follow me on Instagram and on the platform formerly known as Twitter. Don't go anywhere. One World is up next.