- Associated Press - Monday, February 8, 2016

NASHUA, N.H. (AP) - With less than two days until New Hampshire voters go to the polls, Hillary Clinton took a trip to Michigan. And other candidates, including Jeb Bush, said their campaigns will go on no matter what the outcome Tuesday. Donald Trump said he doesn’t need to win New Hampshire, but would like to - though he was notably casual in his campaign effort Sunday.

With the otherwise intense race for the White House seemingly toned down Sunday, it’s easy to forget that this leadoff primary could be make or break for several lagging campaigns.

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 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 Bernie 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’s delivered a meandering version of his usual campaign speech. And by the 45-minute mark, as the candidate railed against U.S. trade policy, many of the undecided voters and college students in the crowd were streaming toward the exits to catch the Super Bowl.

“There’s only so much you can listen to,” said Plymouth State University student Robyn Footit, who is not a fan of Trump.

Still, Trump, who had said earlier on CNN Sunday that he doesn’t “have to win” in New Hampshire to maintain his place among the contenders for the GOP nomination, 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.

Asked whether his father’s confidence had been shaken at all by his second-place finish in Iowa, Donald Jr. described his dad as a man with plenty of fight left. “He’s a fighter, so he’s just going to get back in it and keep going. It’s not over ‘til it’s over,” he said.

For Republican Govs. Chris Christie, John Kasich and Jeb 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 at 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.

“You have not been involved in a consequential decision where you had to be held accountable,” Christie told Rubio.

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. “This is not merely unacceptable or wrong, though it is both. What happened in Flint is immoral,” Clinton said.

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.

___

Follow Bill Barrow and Jill Colvin on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/BillBarrowAP and https://twitter.com/colvinj

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide