- The Washington Times - Monday, February 8, 2016

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Capping his final full day of campaigning in New Hampshire, businessman Donald Trump asked voters to erase any doubts about his viability and help him to his first victory in the Republican presidential primaries as he looks ahead to even more fertile ground in upcoming states.

Mr. Trump, who has led in polling here for the past six months and still hovers around the 30 percent mark, is the odds-on favorite, and a victory would give him a needed rebound after a less-than-tremendous showing in Iowa’s caucuses.

He received a hero’s welcome Monday night at the Verizon Wireless arena in downtown Manchester, where the thousands who braved a storm to attend the rally roared when he walked onto the stage to the Beatles song “Revolution.”

“So this is now crunch time. We have a movement going that is incredible. Everybody is talking about it,” he said. “What we have been doing hasn’t been done before.

“Tomorrow, you have to get out and you have to vote no matter what,” he said, adding that voters need to go to the polls even if they are on their deathbed or learn that their wife has fallen in love with another man. “I don’t give a damn. You’ve got to get out to vote.”

New Hampshire Republicans and independents, who are allowed to vote in the GOP primary, are also likely to cut down the Republican field. Businesswoman Carly Fiorina and three current or former governors each need a strong standing to remain viable.

Sen. Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican who scored a surprisingly strong third place in Iowa, is hoping to shake off a rough debate performance Saturday night. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is hoping not to tumble too far from his first-place Iowa victory.

The race next heads to South Carolina, where Mr. Trump also leads in the polls, then to Nevada and then to Super Tuesday on March 1, when numerous delegates to the nominating convention are at stake. That showdown has been labeled the SEC primary because many of the battles are in states that make up the collegiate Southeastern Conference.

“Tomorrow is going to be the beginning,” Mr. Trump said. “We have to celebrate tomorrow evening. We have to have a great victory. It is so important because we are going to make America great again.

“We are going to make America greater, greater, greater than it’s ever been before,” he said, sparking a roar of applause from the crowd.

He and the rest of the field slushed around snowy New Hampshire and flooded the political talk shows, directing their closing arguments to the large number of undecided voters who pollsters say will decide the race.

Mr. Rubio, hoping to regain his Iowa momentum, vowed to build the kind of coalition — including conservatives and establishment Republicans — that will be needed to defeat the likely Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.

“Hillary Clinton doesn’t want to run against me,” he said at a rally in Nashua. “I can’t wait to run against her.”

Mr. Rubio’s debate stumble has energized the three governors — John Kasich of Ohio, Chris Christie of New Jersey and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — who are competing to consolidate the support of donors and voters looking for an alternative to Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz.

Mr. Kasich, at his 105th town hall meeting, said his appeal goes beyond the Republican Party to include blue-collar Democrats who helped power Ronald Reagan’s winning campaigns.

“Here’s what it gets down to in politics: It’s the head and the heart,” Mr. Kasich said. “It’s the vision thing. If you have the vision and you can get people to understand what the vision is, and you can communicate to them that you understand their problems, that’s how you win elections. It’s not all about dirt and negative campaigning.”

Mr. Bush continued to trade verbal barbs with Mr. Trump, telling a crowd at a local Rotary Club in Nashua that the billionaire businessman’s campaign is based on insulting women, castigating Hispanics and ridiculing disabled people.

“I think we need a president that actually believes in the American people that won’t push everybody down to make themselves look good,” Mr. Bush said.

Three candidates dropped out of the race after the Iowa caucuses, and the primary here is likely to oust more.

Political analysts say it will be hard for Mr. Bush, Mr. Kasich and Mr. Christie to survive disappointing showings. Mrs. Fiorina also will be tested after a weak showing in Iowa and no favorable states on the horizon.

Speaking in Hudson, Mr. Christie downplayed polls that showed him struggling in the mid-single digits, saying they were taken before Saturday’s debate. He said that affair proved to voters that Mr. Rubio can’t carry himself.

“When the lights get that bright, you either shine or you melt,” Mr. Christie said. “We cannot afford to have a president who melts.”

History suggests that the stakes are high in New Hampshire. Since 1976, the eventual Republican nominee has won in either Iowa or New Hampshire.

Mr. Trump faces lingering questions about whether he can turn his strong polling into victories after he led surveys in Iowa but finished second.

But Mr. Trump has since argued that his showing is more impressive than the pundits think — given that he is a political newcomer, the caucus process is “weird” and “complex” and there are questions about whether the Cruz camp hurt his chances with some campaign shenanigans.

“So, let’s say I came in first or second because I don’t forget things like that,” Mr. Trump said Monday on MSNBC.

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