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Morning news brief

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

New Hampshire primary voters made their choice last night, and most Republicans chose Donald Trump.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Trump took about 54% of the vote. His principal challenger, Nikki Haley, received 43 - enough that she said she would stay in the contest. And this triggered Trump's resentment a short time later.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: We have to do what's good for our party. And she was up, and I said, wow, she's doing, like, a speech like she won. She didn't win. She lost.

INSKEEP: The candidate who lost the 2020 election said losers should not act like they won.

MARTIN: NPR senior White House correspondent Tamara Keith is in Manchester, N.H. Good morning, Tam.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Morning.

MARTIN: So what did Haley say that got Trump so preoccupied that it took over his victory speech?

KEITH: Well, it's what she didn't say. She congratulated him on his win, but she didn't give in. And so when news agencies called the race, Trump's campaign immediately sent supporters a fundraising appeal saying, this race is over, exclamation point. But Haley's campaign and her allied super PAC say that two states simply shouldn't determine the nomination. Here was Haley last night in her concession speech, which did sound like a victory speech.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NIKKI HALEY: New Hampshire is first in the nation. It is not the last in the nation.

(CHEERING)

HALEY: This race is far from over. There are dozens of states left to go.

KEITH: She's pledging to stay in the race, and she points to the fact that 45-ish percent of voters here in the Republican primary made it clear that they did not want Trump to be the nominee.

MARTIN: Yeah. And Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who dropped out of the race, you know, also made that - well, he dropped out after Iowa - kind of made the same point that half the field wanted someone else than Trump or someone other than Trump.

OK, so that's what the politicians were saying. What did the voters tell you about that?

KEITH: Well, a lot of voters told me they weren't happy with their choices. The field narrowed so quickly, and so maybe they didn't love Haley, but they would do anything to stop Trump. At least that's the voters at Haley events. New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, who campaigned with her, argued that Trump is a, quote, "loser" - that word keeps coming back up - and saying that he's worried that Trump is going to lose in November and drag down other Republicans on the ballot, too.

But, you know, that's just not the view of the majority of the Republican electorate in this country. Even in this state, New Hampshire, where independent voters could weigh in on the Republican primary, Trump was over 50%. He won. And at some point, if you want to be the nominee, you have to win a race. You can't just keep coming in second. To knock down Trump, Haley needs more than just the two-person race that she got. She also needs a dramatic shift in Republican voting behavior. In the battle for the soul of the Republican Party, at this point, the anti-Trump wing is not the majority.

MARTIN: So we focused a lot on the Republican primary, but there was another race in New Hampshire. What happened in the Democratic primary?

KEITH: Well, let's just say it was weird. A write-in campaign for President Biden did earn him a win in a race that he didn't even compete in. He put out a statement last night thanking people for writing him in. He wasn't on the ballot because the national party got into a dispute with the state because they wanted South Carolina to have the first primary. Anyway, there were 21 other candidates. Dean Phillips and Marianne Williamson performed the best of the others, Phillips getting 20% of the vote, and they are both pledging to continue on.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Tamara Keith in Manchester, N.H. Tam, thank you.

KEITH: You're welcome.

MARTIN: All right, we are going to stay in Manchester, N.H. After this loss, Nikki Haley is promising to fight on, taking the race directly to her home state of South Carolina today.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HALEY: South Carolina voters don't want a coronation. They want an election. And we're going to give them one.

INSKEEP: So she will contend against Trump and some other people who are leading South Carolina politicians. As governor, for example, Haley appointed Tim Scott to the United States Senate, but Scott has endorsed Trump.

MARTIN: So here to talk about what comes next in the nominating contest is NPR's Ashley Lopez. Good morning, Ashley.

ASHLEY LOPEZ, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: All right. So Iowa - over. New Hampshire - over. Walk me through what happens next.

LOPEZ: Well, the very next contest is in Nevada on February 8. That's when the Republican caucus is taking place. But Haley is not contesting that election. Trump has said on social media that he's counting that as another loss for Haley. In fact, he even brought it up last night.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: But just remember - I did hear Nikki say, and now it's off to South Carolina. Well, I love South Carolina. I love it. But, you know, she forgot one thing. Next week it's Nevada.

LOPEZ: In the meantime, Haley has been looking toward her home state in South Carolina. She's in Charleston today, actually. And the party will hold its primary on February 24. This contest, by the way, also doesn't look very good for Haley.

MARTIN: You know, she is not doing well there. She's...

LOPEZ: Yeah.

MARTIN: ...Badly behind, and it is in her home state. And also, as you mentioned, she is not contesting Nevada. Why aren't these states more competitive for her?

LOPEZ: Well, these states are going to be less politically moderate than New Hampshire is, right? They just like Trump more in these states, and they don't have a problem with his style of politics. What I heard in New Hampshire a lot is that people there just don't really like how negative and sort of mean Trump comes across. But in the South, you'll hear voters say that they like to see Trump as a fighter, particularly their fighter, right? So it's just a very different brand of Republican in her next contest. And even though she's from there and she was elected governor there, since Trump, the Republicans in her state are just, like, less into the brand of conservatism that she's selling. In short, Republican voters there are not looking for an alternative to Trump, so there's just, like, not a wide enough lane for Nikki Haley or really any GOP candidate to pick up voters there.

MARTIN: It is curious. I mean...

LOPEZ: Yeah.

MARTIN: ...Particularly in South Carolina, where voters obviously thought enough of Haley to elect her as governor...

LOPEZ: Yeah.

MARTIN: ...But not enough to kind of move her on to the next level - I was just curious. You know, can you just say more about that? Like, what's the uphill climb for her?

LOPEZ: Well, you know, she does do well among Republicans who want an alternative to Trump, obviously, but specifically more moderate voters, even though Haley herself, I should say, is not a moderate Republican, right? She's just not Trump. She has said this time and time again that she supports all of Trump's policies. The only difference is really her delivery.

And I went to a Haley event in southern New Hampshire the night before election day, and a big chunk of the people I spoke to were actually, like, Republicans from Massachusetts, so your more, like, old-school, fiscal-conservative-type Republicans who have serious issues with Trump's personality. And demographically, the voters who Haley will be courting are going to be significantly more religious than these voters here in New England. The voters in the South are also significantly younger than in the Northeast. And lastly, these upcoming states are just more racially and ethnically diverse.

MARTIN: So we keep harping on this, but I think it is a fair question. What are the chances that Haley even makes it to the next primary?

LOPEZ: I mean, her chances are not great, right? But I got to say I'm not surprised to hear her say that she's still in this because, I mean, what else is she going to say, right? While you're running a presidential race, you're all-in, and you're all-in until the very moment you're not. As long as she's in the race, she has to say she's committed because she still needs to fundraise and convince voters to vote for her. So even though the odds are not looking good for her, she's going to say she's running until she's not.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Ashley Lopez. Ashley, thank you.

LOPEZ: Yeah. Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: To Argentina now, where mass protests are expected in a general strike against the new president.

INSKEEP: Javier Milei took office last month, promising to overhaul the economy in a time of high inflation. He campaigned as an outsider, holding up an actual chainsaw, and former President Trump here in the United States praised his victory. A big union objected to Milei's policies, and they're the ones who've called for this general strike today in a country where a large percentage of the workforce is unionized.

MARTIN: Natalie Alcoba is a journalist based in Buenos Aires, and she's here with us to tell us more about all this. Good morning.

NATALIE ALCOBA: Good morning.

MARTIN: Could you just start off by saying more about why these voters are striking?

ALCOBA: Yes. They're demonstrating against a series of sweeping reforms that President Milei is trying to push through and that he says are key to getting Argentina back on track, economically speaking. This ranges from cutbacks to public spending, privatizing publicly owned companies. He intends to slash subsidies to transport and energy, limiting the ability of some workers to strike and also curtailing some environmental protections.

Some of these reforms are being challenged in court. It's not just the substance of the reforms, but the way in which many of them are being implemented that these - that people are objecting to through a national decree. The Congress is now debating some of these changes and may reject them.

MARTIN: You know, so help me understand this. Milei won election very recently, and he just took office in December. So how does this sort of strike, you know, fit into that? I mean, is this strike expected to be big? Is the president losing popular support or are these people who never supported him to begin with?

ALCOBA: I mean, it's a combination. It's certainly expected to be large. It's - I mean, I think, you know, perhaps in the tens of thousands more, as well. It's going to be the largest show of opposition against him since taking office. There have been smaller protests over the last month and a half. It's going to concentrate in Buenos Aires, but there's going to be protests in cities across the country. It includes everybody from bus drivers to teachers, bankers, social movements.

It's true that - I mean, the polls really are mixed. There are some that show that his personal popularity is faltering. But then there's others that actually indicate that his approval is in many ways stronger than it was when he was voted into office last year. So there's one last week that showed that nearly two-thirds of people said that they believe that he could solve the country's problems. It's just that he needs some time to do so.

MARTIN: OK. Well, so before we let you go, I understand that there are fears of a crackdown on demonstrators under a new law that Milei just implemented. What is your sense of how the government will respond?

ALCOBA: So the government of Milei has been taking a harder line with demonstrations and protests, indicating they've got no tolerance for them blocking roads or impeding traffic. Up until now, with the demonstrations that we've seen, there's been a large police presence on the street, many of them dressed in riot gear even though, you know, the demonstrators have been, by and large, peaceful. I mean, ultimately, like, it's a strong show of force that the government is trying to make.

MARTIN: That's Natalie Alcoba in Buenos Aires. Natalie, thank you.

ALCOBA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.