What he stands either for, or against, is the glue that binds the base together.
Former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley’s chances of being stampeded out of the way by the MAGA hordes advancing on Washington were always high.
New Hampshire could not only put the seal on the second coming of Trump; but it could also define the role the US will play in the wider world.
Isolationist, inward-looking, putting America first, is the Trumpian view. Haley’s hopes could be in the dust should she fail to close the wide margin between them.
A stellar result is required to outperform the raging hot favourite. The consequences for the Middle East and Ukraine are enormous if Trump returns to the Oval Office. He has made clear under his stewardship there will never be a return to spending, saying: “Trillions and trillions of dollars on endless wars all over the place in countries you’ve never even heard of and countries that don’t even want us.”
He has also been warm in his praise of both Russian president Vladimir Putin and Hungary’s Viktor Orban.
Haley, by contrast, has committed to delivering further aid to Ukraine, to overturn Russia’s invasion.
She also argued if the US reduces its presence on the world stage, it will only be creating a vacancy for either China or Russia to fill.
And should the US abandon Ukraine, there would be nothing to stop Moscow setting its sights on Poland, she said. She has also railed against “an unholy alliance” between Russia, China and Iran aimed at “undermining the cause of democracy and human freedom”.
Whereas Trump has trained his guns on “an unholy alliance” of globalists and liberals, intent on denying him another term in Washington.
While Trump is hoping to deliver a knock-out blow, Haley knew a victory would be a major upset. But the prospects of any such outcome further receded with the surprise announcement by Ron DeSantis that he was suspending his campaign, and endorsing Trump.
The simple calculation for Republicans – as for any pragmatic politician – will not be based on principles or ideals, but on which candidate is more likely to save their collective hides.
After finishing a disappointing third in the Iowa caucuses, Haley placed her hopes on New Hampshire.
On the debate stage, she has boasted that she wears five-inch stilettos “not for a fashion statement; they’re for ammunition”. But she remains a long shot, and will need every bit of that stature to emerge from Trump’s shadow.
The big money is on Trump being the Republican nominee challenging Joe Biden in November.
Eyes will now turn to South Carolina, which holds the next primary on February 24. Only a dramatic breakthrough may spare Haley from facing a sad swansong in her home state.