By ITV News US Correspondent Dan Rivers and Washington News Editor Jonathan Wald
And then there were two.
Ron DeSantis is out and the contest for the Republican nomination is down to a binary choice: a man who claims the last election was stolen from him or the woman who has said she would pardon him if elected.
Nikki Haley has been doing well here in New Hampshire. But not well enough. As her poll numbers have increased, so have Donald Trump’s.
Trump leads her by a dozen percentage points with only a couple of days left.
DeSantis pulling out before being humiliated by extremely low support in New Hampshire will likely only strengthen Trump’s lead.
Many DeSantis supporters view him as delivering Trump style policies on immigration, the ‘anti-woke’ agenda and the economy, without all the ‘baggage’ as Trump’s legal problems are often labelled here.
A prime example of that comes on Monday when Trump may testify in the E. Jean Carroll civil trial in New York, which will determine whether he owes financial damages to Carroll.
A court already ruled he sexually assaulted her. Now a jury will decide whether Trump must pay damages to Carroll for repeatedly calling her a liar.
Typically, even the suggestion of sexual assault would be catastrophic for a politician.
Yet Trump shrugs it off, doubles down, and somehow continues to increase his poll numbers.
He’s expected to spend the morning in court before returning to New Hampshire for a rally in the evening.
From the court house to the campaign trail in just a few hours.
It’s enough to give you whiplash but get used to it – with the multiple trials Trump faces it promises to be the kind of itinerary that defines his campaign in 2024.
If Nikki Haley loses by a considerable margin here in the Granite State, it’s difficult to see a path to the nomination for her.
Haley’s support in her home State of South Carolina is even more fragile. There the Evangelical Christian vote will likely deliver Trump a large margin of victory, as it did in Iowa.
Further down the calendar, Trump continues to enjoy high levels of support in many states such as Texas and Tennessee. In some, he is polling more than 70%.
The pressure on Haley to throw in the towel will now be immense, standing as she does, as the only alternative to Trump.
She knows if she continues her campaign, she risks being cast into the political wilderness by the ‘Make America Great Again’ faction of the Republican Party, which has such a stranglehold on its immediate future.
There is still a chance Trump’s comeback will be thwarted by one of the four criminal trials he is facing.
But as he edges closer to the nomination, the consequences of such a decision on American unity would be huge.
Trump knows, more than anyone, that securing the Republican nomination will confer on him a sort of political force-field.
How would the election play out if one of the two main candidates is convicted or imprisoned?
It would plunge the country into a political crisis the likes of which haven’t been seen since the Civil War.
The USA is drifting towards a tipping point, where it is inevitable Trump will fight the next election, while maintaining he won the last.
It’s the ultimate high stakes grudge match; a political ground hog day, where Biden and Trump slug out the next ten months, in one of the longest, most bitter and personal election campaigns the country has ever seen.
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