Trump Throws a New Hampshire Tantrum

January 25, 2024

New Hampshire’s primary had a clear winner but a strange ending: The results didn’t seem to make Donald Trump very cheery.

The runner-up, Nikki Haley, was ebullient and defiant in her election-night speech, pointing to her rise from an asterisk a year ago to a projected 43% on Tuesday. She promised to press on, despite long odds.

Mr. Trump, the winner with a projected 54% of the vote, was irritated and nasty. He castigated Ms. Haley as an “impostor” who’d had “a very bad night” and suggested New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu has “got to be on something” for supporting her. He closed by snarling, “I don’t get too angry, I get even.” The 19-minute rant made him look like an irate old man, not a confident, happy warrior.

Mr. Trump is now at a point in the election cycle for which he might be singularly ill-suited. He has cemented his position as the likely nominee and must start confronting general-election challenges. But he also has to endure for a little longer an intraparty contest that he clearly considers an indignity. He may have bought a bit too much into the narrative from selected pollsters and his campaign that he’d win the Granite State by 20-plus points.

Tantrums like the one he threw Tuesday won’t help him with what has to be priority No. 1 if he’s to win the general election: unifying his party. The invective and ridicule he has hurled at opponents and their supporters have left scars. Eight of 10 Haley backers in New Hampshire told Fox News that they wouldn’t vote for Mr. Trump if he is the nominee. That’s 35% of Tuesday’s primary voters. (AP Votecast put the latter figure at 21%.) Some of that animosity will fade as the possibility of another Biden term draws closer, but Mr. Trump needs the ill will to all but disappear.

Moreover, Mr. Trump has yet to fashion an effective appeal to the swing voters. Mr. Trump needs to reach disaffected Republicans and right-leaning and middle-of-the-road independents, especially college-educated suburban women. But he has so far focused only on firing up his hard-right base.

To expand his support, Mr. Trump must hit issues that matter to swing voters. The economy is a key, but he can’t rely on Mr. Biden’s performance to carry him through. Though Americans’ attitudes have been sour, they seem to be mellowing. The University of Michigan’s Index of Consumer Sentiment rose13.1% in December and was up 21.4% from last year, ending at its highest level since July 2021. Mr. Trump needs an economic agenda beyond “drill, baby, drill” and wistful reflections that the economy was better under him.

He should make a strong pitch on kitchen-table issues that speaks to voters of stability and competence. He’ll need that to mitigate what will likely be damaging court appearances. Our current politics of tribal instincts caused Republicans to rally to Mr. Trump when he was indicted. And the Georgia election interference case may further advantage him, even outside MAGA circles, given the allegations that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willisengaged in an affair with a prosecutor she hired for the case. (Ms. Willis has called the man a “superstar, a great friend and a great lawyer” and accused his estranged wife of trying to obstruct the case against Mr. Trump.)

But as these cases continue—potentially generating compelling evidence or a guilty verdict—they’ll likely hurt Mr. Trump with general-election voters. Many already harbor grave concerns about his ethics and legal troubles.

Read More at the WSJ

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