Polls show Christie dropping out will likely help Haley in New Hampshire

Christie and Haley drew support from similar blocs of the electorate, and Christie supporters like Haley as their second choice.

Chris Christie may think that Nikki Haley is going to get “smoked” by Donald Trump, but a large segment of his supporters in New Hampshire are prepared to vote for her now that Christie is out of the presidential race.

Christie’s abrupt exit on Wednesday, 13 days before the first-in-the-nation primary, left his rivals scrambling for the small-but-significant share of Trump-skeptical voters who have told pollsters they would vote for the former New Jersey governor.

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New polling out of New Hampshire this week offered an immediate answer as to which candidate would most likely benefit: Haley, the former South Carolina governor and ambassador to the United Nations who’s been drawing from a similar pool of voters as Christie.

Because Christie was so low in the polls, the sample sizes of GOP primary voters who picked him as their first choice are small. But the numbers are clear.

In a CNN/University of New Hampshire poll released Tuesday, Christie stood at 12 percent, a distant third place behind Trump (39 percent) and Haley (32 percent). But nearly two-in-three Christie supporters, 65 percent, picked Haley as their second choice.

That’s far more overwhelming than how some of the other candidates’ backers would disperse themselves. Among Haley voters, Christie was the top second choice at 38 percent, but 21 percent picked Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and 15 percent chose Trump. Among Trump voters, the top second choice was businessperson Vivek Ramaswamy (38 percent), who was in fifth place overall.

Another sign Haley would likely benefit from Christie’s departure: The two candidates are drawing from similar blocs of the electorate, though Haley’s appeal is both deeper and broader. Among likely primary voters who aren’t registered with a political party, Haley (43 percent) and Christie (23 percent) were the top two candidates, leading Trump (17 percent). They’re also the top two candidates among voters who described their ideology as moderate or liberal.

Similarly, in a Suffolk University/USA Today/Boston Globe poll, also released on Tuesday, roughly half of Christie’s supporters, 48 percent, went to Haley on their second choice. But nearly as many said they were undecided or would support another candidate.

Next week’s Iowa caucuses won’t be affected by Christie’s announcement — he wasn’t campaigning there and didn’t register in the polls. But Haley’s previously slim chances to overtake Trump in New Hampshire likely hinge on both momentum out of Iowa and gobbling up Christie’s share of the vote in the Granite State.