Donald Trump plows through New Hampshire as rivals vie for second
Trump leads the Republican pack in polls, but N.H. voters known for their last-minute decisions
After months of buildup and hype, voters in New Hampshire finally get their shot today at influencing the course of the presidential campaign. And Donald Trump in particular is counting on them to make him a winner.
The Republican front-runner had to swallow a loss in Iowa to Texas Senator Ted Cruz, with the added indignity of Florida Senator Marco Rubio finishing right on his heels.
The billionaire developer was leading the polls in the Republican contest in the run-up to today's primary, the first in the nation. But this state gives no guarantees that final results will match the polling.
"It's hugely important to keep in mind that, in the primary, people make up their minds at the very end," says Andrew Smith, a political scientist at the University of New Hampshire. "You have to assume that no vote is locked down."
Undecided voters, not to mention the high number of independent voters in this state — 44 per cent — could well influence the top finishers on Tuesday night. Those undeclared voters, as they are officially called, can vote in either party's primary.
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That uncertainty, coupled with the traditional importance of N.H. in the presidential race, means campaigning to the very last minute here.
Since 1972, no one has won the White House without finishing first or second in the Granite State.
Snow doesn't stop Trump fans
Standing outside the Londonderry Lions Club where Trump was campaigning, Dave Matseas said he will definitely be casting a vote for the New York billionaire.
"He wants to make America great again," said Matseas, wearing a "Trump 2016" baseball cap with a brim full of snow.
He got to the event too late to get inside; it was at capacity. Asked why he supports Trump, the army veteran said he appreciates the brash businessman's promise to help struggling veterans.
Fiona Conte didn't get into Trump's town hall gathering, either, and cried out to Trump's motorcade. "Just a little wave? Please?"
Conte took the day off work and drove through the snowstorm from Massachusetts to see Trump. "I just love him, I think he's the right man for the presidency," she said, while wearing a red Trump scarf wrapped around her neck.
Conte's enthusiasm however, won't help Trump Tuesday. He needs the support of New Hampshire voters and has tweaked his campaign strategy to appeal to them.
In a state hooked on face-to-face politics, Trump did several town hall events, rather than one large rally after another, knowing that voters here are accustomed to the chance to hear candidates in intimate settings.
Still, the Republican front-runner made time to blast his opponents on Twitter, in interviews and at the events.
About Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, Trump said on CNN: "He's a sad person who has gone absolutely crazy. I mean, this guy is a nervous wreck."
Bush is "not smart enough to win" Trump told a crowd at one of his campaign stops.
For his part, Bush wrote on Twitter that Trump is a "loser" and a "liar." But Trump wasn't the only one Bush took aim at on the final day.
He put out a web video targeting Ohio Governor John Kasich as well as local radio ads, funded by Bush's Super PAC, that attacked Rubio.
Bush, Kasich, Rubio and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie are, the polls suggest, locked in a battle for second place, and are all counting on New Hampshire to give their campaigns momentum.
Kasich in particular has put all his hopes on N.H, saying that if he doesn't fare well here, his run for the White House is likely done.
Kasich had a good showing in the debate here on Saturday, which is probably why Bush made the effort of attacking him Monday.
Rubio appeared to have the momentum coming into New Hampshire after doing better than expected in Iowa, but Tuesday's result will show how much damage his heavily scripted and repetitive answers on Saturday might have cost him.
Meanwhile, the Iowa winner, Ted Cruz, is not expected to pull another upset win here.
A large number of evangelical Christians were behind that victory in Iowa, and that voting bloc isn't at play in N.H.. Republicans in this state are more moderate, and Cruz, a poster boy for the far-right, doesn't appear to have wide appeal.
New Hampshire was being counted on to help winnow the field of Republican candidates, which also includes Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina.
But with the fight to be the anti-Trump, anti-Cruz alternative so fierce between Bush, Kasich, Rubio and Christie, that may not happen if they finish close to each other.
Feel the Bern?
On the Democrats side, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, from the state next door, is expected to beat Hillary Clinton, polls have been showing. But by how much is the question. In some polls he's been ahead by more than 20 percentage points.
There are many undecided, and conflicted, Democrats in this state. And Clinton, who only narrowly beat Sanders in Iowa last week, has been working hard to close the gap between the two.
"It's a challenging choice between those two Democrats," says Amanda Gibbons, a 25-year-old undecided voter who was at a Sanders event at a small college in Nashua.
Dirk Ten Broeck hadn't made his mind up yet, either, and said he'd like to blend a little of Sanders and a little of Clinton into one candidate.
"It's a tossup between the idealism of Bernie and the practicality of Hillary," the local resident said.
Nicholas Harvey, who was born in Sherbrooke, Que., and moved to the U.S. when he was two, is firmly supporting Sanders. "He really has good ideas," the college student said. "He's definitely hitting the areas that affect us the most."
Sanders talked about student debt during his remarks, for example, and laid out his vision for a "political revolution." He urged voters in this state to be the ones to lead that revolution at the ballot box Tuesday.
Clinton, and her husband, the former president Bill Clinton, and their daughter, Chelsea, held back-to-back events and are fighting for every vote. "I need you tomorrow," the former secretary of state said at one of her campaign stops.
At her final campaign rally, in the gym of a high school in the town of Hudson, Clinton asked voters to "please consider giving me the chance to do this job for you."
Her friends, actors Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen, were there to support her and when Steenburgen addressed the crowd she made this appeal: "Let's pull out a miracle."