NASHUA, N.H. (AP) — GOP front-runner Donald Trump is aiming for his first win in New Hampshire’s fast-approaching primary, while rival Republican candidates, including Jeb Bush, said their campaigns will go on no matter what the outcome Tuesday.
Democrat Hillary Clinton, facing an uphill campaign in the state against Bernie Sanders, took a trip to Michigan.
With the otherwise intense race for the White House seemingly toned down Sunday, it’s easy to forget that this leadoff primary could be a make or break situation for several lagging campaigns.
Trump said he doesn’t need to win New Hampshire, but would like to. Republican hopeful Marco Rubio continues to downplay his rough outing in Saturday night’s GOP debate, while touting his overall campaign momentum after his third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses.
Trump, who is facing intense pressure to perform after coming in second in the Iowa caucuses, opted Sunday for just one of his signature rallies in Plymouth; and when he visited a diner, the billionaire real estate mogul spent less than five minutes interacting with potential voters before sitting down for a meal with staff.
On the Democratic side, New Hampshire favorite Sanders and Clinton — who narrowly won Iowa — are avoiding predictions about Tuesday and looking beyond to South Carolina and Nevada, the next two states up in the nomination process.
At his rally, Trump delivered a meandering version of his usual campaign speech and urged supporters to get to the polls.
“If you’re not going to vote for me do not vote,” he dead-panned.
The billionaire businessman had begun his day with an attempt to do things “the New Hampshire way” by engaging in more personal interactions with voters, stopping by Chez Vachon, a hole-in-the-wall Manchester restaurant that specializes in French Canadian fare and is a popular stop for political candidates.
But while some candidates work to connect with voters by answering questions and even sitting down at their tables, Trump spent less than five minutes circling the restaurant, greeting diners and shaking hands before sitting down for his own breakfast.
At another diner in Tilton, reporters invited along for the visit were greeted by one of Trump’s sons, Donald Jr. “We’re dividing and conquering,” said the younger Trump of his father’s absence.
For Republican Govs. Chris Christie, John Kasich and Bush, the task is to make sure the closing argument here isn’t their last.
Christie sought to capitalize on his debate effort to batter Rubio, a first-term senator, as unprepared for the presidency. But he also took aim his fellow governors as they battle for many of the same voters in an effort to remain relevant beyond Tuesday.
The governors thus far have struggled to keep Rubio from emerging as the alternative to Trump and Ted Cruz. Cruz, the Texas senator won Iowa, though he’s looking beyond New Hampshire to a run of Southern primaries with more conservative electorates.
Under assault from Christie during Saturday’s debate, Rubio repeated his standard critique of President Barack Obama several times and played into Christie’s argument that the first-term senator is a scripted, inexperienced politician from a do-nothing Congress.
Rubio was back on message Sunday. “People said, ‘Oh, you said the same thing three or four times.’ I’m going to say it again,” Rubio said in Londonderry, New Hampshire.
For Democrats, Sanders drew another large crowd Sunday in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where he reprised his indictment of a “rigged economy” and “corrupt campaign finance system.”
Taking a break from the New Hampshire campaign trail, Hillary Clinton stopped in Flint, Michigan, which continues to deal with the fallout of a lead-contaminated water system.
At the House of Prayer Missionary Church, Clinton noted that for two years, Flint residents drank poisoned water despite officials declaring it safe. She urged Congress to approve $200 million to fix Flint’s water system and vowed to “fight for you in Flint no matter how long it takes.”
Barrow reported from Columbia, South Carolina. Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman contributed from Washington and Thomas Beaumont, Sergio Bustos, Holly Ramer, Kathleen Ronayne, Ken Thomas contributed from New Hampshire. David Eggert contributed from Flint, Michigan.
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