- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 2, 2016

WINDHAM, N.H. — Texas Sen. Ted Cruz rode into New Hampshire Tuesday on the heels of his stunning Iowa caucus victory, insisting that the same message of defying the GOP establishment and promising a get-tough approach on illegal immigration will work beyond the boundaries of Iowa.

Mr. Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio, who placed third, were widely dubbed as the big winners of Monday’s GOP caucuses — though businessman Donald Trump griped that his second-place showing deserved more credit than he was getting.

But analysts said Mr. Cruz will have a tougher sell in New Hampshire, where voters tend to be more socially moderate and a slate of establishment Republican governors lie in wait to make their mark on the race.

“If we stand united, we will win,” Mr. Cruz said at a town hall meeting here in this city in the state’s southeastern corner.

His win in Iowa came with some sharp elbows. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, the fourth-place finisher, accused Mr. Cruz’s campaign of “dirty tricks” by spreading rumors that Mr. Carson was about to drop out of the race — a move the doctor said caused some of his supporters to switch sides, and one that Mr. Trump was quick to label “disgusting.”

Mr. Carson’s campaign said Mr. Cruz apologized Tuesday.

The heat of the Iowa race also carried over to New Hampshire, where Mr. Cruz sharpened his attack on Mr. Rubio and Mr. Trump over immigration, saying he alone is the candidate conservatives can trust.

He said Mr. Rubio made a campaign promise in 2010 to oppose amnesty, then bowed to pressure from the “Washington Cartel” and Wall Street in 2013, reversing his stance and becoming a key author of the bipartisan Senate bill that would have granted citizenship rights to most illegal immigrants.

“We said virtually the identical things to the voters who elected us, but when we got to Washington, Marco and I took very, very different paths,” Mr. Cruz said.

As for Mr. Trump, whose tough talk on immigration sparked a national conversation on the issue, Mr. Cruz said the businessman is late to the fight and was missing in action during the 2013 debate.

Speaking in Exeter later in the day, Mr. Rubio denied that his immigration plans amount to amnesty, and said in an interview with ABC that Mr. Cruz himself has flip-flopped on his support for granting legal status to illegal immigrants.

Mr. Rubio also took a swipe at Mr. Cruz’s record on national security, saying the Texan repeatedly voted against defense spending bills, and Mr. Rubio said he alone can unify conservatives within the GOP and expand the Republican voter pool.

“If I am our nominee, we are going to beat Hillary Clinton — and it won’t be by a flip the coin,” Mr. Rubio said shortly after the Democratic race in Iowa was called for Mrs. Clinton. (Mrs. Clinton’s razor-thin win over Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders in Iowa’s Democratic caucuses was helped by winning a series of coin tosses to parcel the final delegates in some deadlocked precincts.)

Rubio challenged

Mr. Cruz, Mr. Trump and Mr. Rubio have emerged as the top tier of the GOP field — with Govs. John Kasich of Ohio and Chris Christie of New Jersey and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush needing to post a strong showing in next Tuesday’s primary to keep their campaigns viable.

The three governors could make it hard for Mr. Rubio to consolidate votes from mainstream establishment Republicans, said Mike Dennehy, a New Hampshire-based GOP strategist.

“John Kasich has lived here, Jeb Bush has a strong family background in New Hampshire and strong family roots with the Bush family, and then Chris Christie has the support of the Union Leader,” Mr. Dennehy said, alluding to the state’s largest newspaper. “It is going to be difficult for Rubio to coalesce and bring all that vote together.”

Alex Conant, a Rubio spokesman, however, said voters will look first to Mr. Rubio, given his unexpectedly strong showing in Iowa.

“If you don’t want Ted Cruz or Donald Trump to be the Republican nominee, then you should support Marco Rubio,” Mr. Conant said. “Marco will unite conservatives and defeat Hillary Clinton.”

The front-runners were rolling out new endorsements in hopes of building on their momentum. Mr. Rubio snagged the support of popular South Carolina GOP Sen. Tim Scott ahead of that state’s Feb. 27 primary, while Mr. Trump appeared Monday with former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, a onetime tea party favorite who lost a comeback attempt in New Hampshire’s 2014 Senate race.

Undecided voters at Mr. Cruz’s campaign stop said they’re split between Mr. Rubio and Mr. Cruz.

“I was leaning Cruz until I had really seen and listened to things Rubio has done,” said Kurt Michaelson, 49, who attended the Cruz town hall with his wife and son, and planned to attend a Rubio event later this week.

Sanford and Marcia Way, both 65, said that they were leaning toward Mr. Cruz, but also wanted to see Mr. Rubio before the primary.

“When people say Cruz is not cooperating, I say, ‘Great,’” Mr. Way said. “Really, because he is actually fighting for what he said he would do when he was elected. Too many times they say [they] are going to do something, and then, when they get elected, they don’t do it.”

There were signs that Mr. Rubio’s immigration record in the Senate could haunt him, particularly his decision to work originally with Democrats such as New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer before the bill collapsed.

“Marco Rubio was part of the ‘Gang of Eight,’” said Jean Johnson. “That was it for me.”

The 77-year-old said Mr. Cruz has won her support for the way in which he fought the “establishment” and the “inside-the-Beltway boys who think they have a lifetime position.”

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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