Trump downplays Nikki Haley as rival in New Hampshire primary

<span>Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
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Donald Trump turned up at a polling site in New Hampshire on Tuesday afternoon, insisted Nikki Haley wasn’t a threat to his campaign for the Republican nomination for president and predicted a “big loss” for his rival in the state.

“I think she’s worked very hard, but I couldn’t care less, if she drops out that’s fine,” said the former US president.

Related: Joe Biden wins New Hampshire’s Democratic primary with write-in votes

Turnout for the first primary contest in the nation ahead of the 2024 election was expected to be high, with the polls set to begin closing at 7pm local time.

The Make America Great Again (Maga) base of voters for Trump appear unswayed by his losing record after one term in the White House, four criminal cases underway against him and two civil cases.

Jessica Bastien, an undeclared voter in Derry, about 13 miles south-east of Manchester, New Hampshire, showed up to cast her ballot for Trump wearing a top with his mugshot and the words in upper case: NOT GUILTY.

In her view, each of the 91 felony counts Trump is facing in the four cases is baseless and she was hopeful he will ultimately be acquitted.

“I support his love for the country. His policies. His truthfulness and always sticking by what he says and protecting the US citizens first,” she said.

Asked what would happen if Trump becomes the Republican nominee but loses to the incumbent president and shoo-in for the Democratic nomination, Joe Biden, she said Biden was too weak to win and wouldn’t contemplate any other outcome. In the unlikely event Trump is dethroned in the primary, she is not sure what she would do in November.

“I think both parties are corrupted and have their ways of lying to us,” she said, adding that Trump’s movement doesn’t need the support of anti-Trump Republicans to win.

Trump is in the middle of defending himself in a defamation trial in New York, where he is expected to testify when court is due to resume on Thursday – having been delayed so far this week. The civil case is set to award damages against him after he denied, while he was president, having sexually assaulted New York writer E Jean Carroll in the 1990s. An earlier jury found him liable for the abuse.

He is also awaiting a ruling from the judge in another civil case in New York where the attorney general, Letitia James, sued him and his family business, the Trump Organization, for fraud and has argued for $370m in penalties.

Later, a few hours before polls closed in the Granite state, Mark Harris, a top strategist for a pro-Haley Super Pac, vowed to support her for as long as she was in the race.

New Hampshire primary: read more

Speaking from the lobby of the DoubleTree hotel in Manchester, an election day gathering spot for politicians and politicos, Harris predicted Haley would far exceed her goal of doing better than she did in the Iowa caucuses, when she finished third with 20% of the vote.

“We have a clear path to victory,” he said and pushed back on any suggestion that Haley would drop out before her home state primary in South Carolina next month. “We’re ready to fight that full fight with her,” he said.

On Monday night at a Haley event, a young man shouted to the former US ambassador to the United Nations, during the Trump administration, and ex-South Carolina governor: “Will you marry me?”

She shot back: “Will you vote for me?” He said no, he was voting for Trump.

“Get outta here,” she said.