For weeks, Nikki Haley and her allies have said she is ready to take on Donald Trump in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, proving she has the momentum with Republicans to continue his fight for the party’s presidential nomination.
With Haley’s endorsement from the state’s popular governor, Chris Sununu, and a higher percentage of independent voters and college graduates, the state was seen as her most favorable early battleground against the former president after she finished a distant third in Iowa.
New Hampshire polls show Haley has some reason for optimism, with a polling average of 538 showing her gaining notable ground with voters since December.
However, Trump’s support also increased heading into primary day with Haley continuing to trail by double digits.
Haley’s team, including understudies like Sununu, also tempered their expectations for her performance, from predicting a “landslide” to pledging a “strong second.”
“We’re fighting for every inch of appearance. No one said this was going to be easy,” Olivia Perez-Cubas, a spokeswoman for Haley’s campaign, told ABC News Live anchor Lynsey Davis on Tuesday night. “Donald Trump is Donald Trump.”
“Landslide here in New Hampshire.”
Haley won the endorsement of Sununu, the anti-Trump governor of New Hampshire, in December. He chose her over other options such as former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, both of whom have since ended their campaigns.
Sununu quickly became Haley’s main surrogate, supporting her at numerous rallies and television interviews.
After the new endorsement – six weeks before the primaries – Sununu bragged in a joint television appearance with Haley that the former UN ambassador’s chances of winning were high.
“The reality is we are going to have record turnout here,” Sununu said. “And if anyone who can vote comes out and casts a ballot, there’s no doubt that Nikki Haley will win this thing in a landslide here in New Hampshire. That’s fundamental change.”
While opponents like DeSantis devoted more resources to a strong showing in the Iowa caucuses, which kicked off the nominating race last week, Haley promised supporters at an event in Milford, New Hampshire, that their own primaries would be an opportunity to “do this really well.” correct”.
“You know, Iowa started it,” Haley said on January 3. “And you know, you’re correcting it.”
When introducing Haley at the event, Sununu acknowledged that he expected Trump to win Iowa — which Trump ultimately did, with 51% of the vote — but that he expected Haley to do well in the state.
“I think she’s going to shock everyone in Iowa with a strong second.” Swallow said.
Haley edged out DeSantis for second place in a late poll, but ended up falling behind in the actual caucuses, ending up in third place with 19%.
Last week, Sununu struck a different tone about Healey’s goals for his state, telling ABC News’ Byron Bates: “We always wanted to have a strong second,” adding that this was “the only expectation we ever had.”
On New Hampshire primary day, Haley was thinking about the February 24 South Carolina primary. In an interview with ABC News’ Rachel Scott, Haley was asked about recent polls showing Trump widening his lead over Haley in New Hampshire.
“We’re going to be back home in South Carolina,” Haley said. “The goal is we wanted to be strong in Iowa, stronger in New Hampshire, and then stronger in South Carolina.”
But there, as in other parts of the country, Trump enjoys a huge lead in the polls.
A March 5 Super Tuesday primary would provide “great fertile ground for Nikki,” Haley’s campaign memo released Tuesday said.
“We’re committed to getting this done,” Perez-Cubas, a campaign spokeswoman, told ABC News Live on Tuesday. “I think what a lot of people don’t realize is that the first month in politics is a lifetime.” “A lot can happen over the next few weeks.”
ABC News’ Abby Cruz and Nicholas Kerr contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared on abcnews.go.com