About a mile up from the Massachusetts border, voters filed in to a wood-paneled room in a banquet hall in Hollis, New Hampshire. They came on Thursday to hear former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley make one of her final pitches ahead of the first-in-the-nation primary.

Volunteer Melinda Tourangeau, of Milford, N.H., greeted the arriving crowd. After attending her first Haley event eight months ago, Tourangeau has since been to dozens.

“I was taken, just completely taken,” she said. “We have a leader who makes you feel good about yourself and raises your energy, and that's going to be really great for the country.”

Tourangeau is a part of the Women for Nikki coalition, a national effort to engage female voters on behalf of the South Carolina Republican who, if elected, would be the country’s first woman president.

In the final stretch before New Hampshire’s votes are tallied, coalition members — including Women for Nikki Massachusetts co-chairs Jennifer Nassour and state Rep. Hannah Kane — will be on the ground knocking on doors, setting up for rallies and handling whatever else the campaign needs.

Nassour, who once headed the Massachusetts Republican Party, is now a regional chair for Women for Nikki, covering a territory that stretches from Maine to Maryland.

“There are women who have phenomenal careers who will just do anything,” Nassour said. “There’s not a phone call they won’t make. This isn’t a hoity-toity, fancy-lunch crowd. I actually say we’re like the moms-in-our-gym-clothes kind of crowd. We are gritty and scrappy and super educated.”

Nassour, who first met Haley at the 2012 Republican National Convention, is drawn to Haley’s experience as an ambassador, governor, state legislator and accountant. She said the energy behind Haley’s candidacy reminds her of the 2010 Senate election season in Massachusetts, when volunteers from around the country would show up on her doorstep to propel Republican Scott Brown to his upset win over Martha Coakley.

Most polls show former President Donald Trump with a commanding lead in New Hampshire. But Kane, a five-term lawmaker from Shrewsbury, is optimistic that Haley is gaining momentum.

“I’m hearing actually, from men and women across the board that they think she’s an incredibly strong leader and represents the next generation of leadership for our country,” she said. “People want to move on from this period of time that we’re in. There’s not a lot of excitement or enthusiasm for, I think, many other candidates.”

Officially, the Massachusetts Republican Party is neutral in the presidential primary. But the proximity to New Hampshire gives individual Republicans a chance to make a mark for their favorite candidate at a pivotal moment — whether that’s by joining a rally, making phone calls or opening their checkbooks.

“The old joke is that, if you’re running for president, you come to New Hampshire to campaign in, you know, the high school gyms and function halls,” said John Cluverius, a political science professor at UMass Lowell. “And then while you’re there, you make a quick stop to a ballroom in Boston to raise money.”

Three people, in hats and winter coats, stand outdoors holding a "Nikki Haley for President" sign.
Roland Nutter, Debbie Nutter and Matthew Nutter, of Pepperell, were among the Massachusetts residents in the crowd as Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley addressed voters in Hollis, N.H., on Jan. 18, 2024.
Katie Lannan GBH News

Cluverius said he can see why Haley might appeal to Republican activists who like her odds in a general election against Joe Biden, or to suburbanites who feel she could be one of their neighbors.

But overall, he’s skeptical that Haley can emerge as the nominee — in no small part because of Trump’s popularity within the party.

Cluverius, director of survey research for UMass Lowell's Center for Public Opinion, said a number of her positions could also make her less popular as a candidate.

For one, her anti-abortion record could pose a challenge in New Hampshire. He said every poll he’s conducted since 2022 shows a majority of New Hampshire Republicans favoring abortion rights.

“Massachusetts Republicans are more conservative on abortion than New Hampshire Republicans,” Cluverius said. “As a result, I think there is a chance that Haley could do better in Massachusetts than she would in New Hampshire, given her previous positions on abortion.”

At her speech in Hollis, Haley didn’t touch on abortion. She drew applause for ideas like term limits for Congress and defunding sanctuary cities for immigrants. She may have struck a chord with women when she reminded the crowd that she’s a mom — and that she wants to create a better world for her adult children.

She also got some laughs for acknowledging the looming end of the first-in-the-nation campaign onslaught.

“I know why you’re excited, because guess what? After five days, no more commercials, no more mail, no more text messages,” Haley said. “All of that goes away.”

But for some in the room, like those who drove up from Massachusetts towns like Pepperell and Acton, the end of the first-in-the-nation primary just starts the clock until it’s time to cast their votes on Super Tuesday.