Haley keeps rising in lead-off 2024 primary state, but Trump remains commanding GOP presidential front-runner

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With less than two months to go until the first votes in the Republican presidential nomination race, former President Donald Trump remains the dominant front-runner.

But a new public opinion survey in New Hampshire, the state that holds the first primary and second overall contest in the GOP’s nominating calendar, is the latest to indicate a surge by former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who served as ambassador to the United Nations in the Trump administration.

Trump enjoys the backing of 42% of likely Republican presidential primary voters in a poll from the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Survey Center and CNN that was released Thursday, relatively unchanged from the previous UNH survey in September.

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Nikki Haley files to place her name on the New Hampshire presidential primary ballot

Former ambassador and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a 2024 Republican presidential candidate, files to place her name on New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation GOP presidential primary ballot, at the Statehouse in Concord, Oct. 13, 2023. (Fox News / Paul Steinhauser)

Haley stands at 20% support, up eight points from the September poll. 

“While Trump continues to lead as the GOP field narrows, Nikki Haley seems to be consolidating her position as the alternative to Trump among New Hampshire Republicans,” UNH Survey Center Director Andrew Smith told Fox News. “Importantly, Haley does not have the negative drag on her campaign compared with other Republican candidates.”

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who’s concentrating most of his time and resources in New Hampshire as he runs a second time for the White House, captures 14% support, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at 9%, and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy at 8%. North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum registers at 2%, with former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson at zero.

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As he makes his third straight White House run, Trump saw his lead in the GOP nomination race expand over the spring and summer as he made history as the first former or current president in American history to be indicted for a crime. Trump’s four indictments — including in federal court in Washington D.C. and in Fulton County court in Georgia on charges he tried to overturn his 2020 presidential election loss — have only fueled his support among Republican voters.

Former President Donald Trump leaves the stage at a campaign rally, Nov. 11, 2023, in Claremont, N.H. (AP Photo / Reba Saldanha)

Trump enjoys a massive lead in national polling — including 62% support in a Fox News survey released on Wednesday. But his margins — while extremely formidable — are smaller in the crucial early voting states.

Haley, thanks to well regarded performances in the first three GOP presidential primary debates this summer and autumn, has seen her support among primary voters rise. Haley has tied DeSantis for second place in some of the latest polls in Iowa — whose caucuses kick off the Republican nominating calendar on Jan. 15. 

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The UNH/CNN poll is the latest to indicate Haley in second place in New Hampshire, which will hold its presidential primary Jan. 23. She’s also moved ahead of DeSantis for second place in her home state, which votes Feb. 24 and holds the first southern contest.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a 2024 Republican White House candidate, files to place his name on New Hampshire’s GOP presidential primary ballot, at the Statehouse in Concord, N.H., Oct. 12, 2023 (Fox News / Paul Steinhauser)

The new survey indicates that Trump enjoys the backing of 55% of registered Republicans in New Hampshire. Support among independents who say they’ll cast a ballot in the GOP primary is evenly split among Trump, Haley and Christie.

Independents, known in New Hampshire as undeclared voters, make up slightly more than 40% of the state’s electorate.

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The poll also indicates that more than half of those questioned said they’ve made up their minds in the primary race, with self-described Trump voters more likely than those backing the former president’s rivals to say their choice for the GOP nomination is definite.

Chris Christie says GOP presidential rivals who don't make the debate stage 'should leave the field'

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a 2024 Republican presidential candidate, headlines a town hall on August 9, 2023 in Salem, New Hampshire (Fox News – Paul Steinhauser)

The survey was conducted Nov. 10-14, entirely after the third Republican debate, which was held Nov. 8 in Miami. 

“Few likely Republican primary voters paid close attention to the November Republican debate and only about half are interested in further debates taking place,” the release from the UNH Survey Center spotlighted.

And UNH also noted that when it comes to the issues, the survey indicates that “foreign policy has become far more important since September, while support for a 15-week abortion ban has declined.”

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

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