Decision day in New Hampshire – CNN
Marco Rubio’s stumble under New Jersey Gov. Christie’s ferocious fire at Saturday’s GOP debate, meanwhile, threatens to trigger a late slump in his support, after the Florida senator looked set to use New Hampshire to emerge as the top establishment candidate.
For their part, Democrats are waiting to assess the magnitude of Sanders’ expected victory over Clinton, which could offer the anti-Wall Street crusader a boost heading into less hospitable territory in southern states.
Campaigning for the primary wrapped up on Monday with Trump and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush trading deeply personal taunts and Rubio trying to bounce back from his tough debate night.
The latest CNN/WMUR daily tracking poll on Monday showed Sanders with a 26-point lead over Clinton. On the Republican side, Trump maintained the lead he has held for months, 31% to next-best Florida Sen. Rubio with 17%. Three-quarters of the polling was completed before Saturday’s debate, so it was unclear whether Rubio had been hurt by his rocky performance.
Among other candidates, Cruz was third with 14%, significantly ahead of Ohio Gov. John Kasich at 10% and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 7%. Christie received 4%.
But despite his lowly position in the polls, Christie has spent the last few days basking in his debate assault on Rubio.
Under pressure from the New Jersey brawler, Rubio repeated the same line four times during the debate, exacerbating an impression that he was overly scripted.
“When the lights get that bright, you either shine or you melt, and we can’t afford to have a president who melts,” Christie said at a campaign event in Hudson, New Hampshire.
Christie, Bush and Kasich are hoping that Rubio’s rough night halts momentum he built up coming third in Iowa. A strong second place in the Granite State would enhance Rubio’s case that he is best-positioned to consolidate opposition to Trump and Cruz.
Trump, for his part, hinted Sunday that he understands how crucial New Hampshire is to his campaign.
“I could say to you if I came in second and third I’d be thrilled, okay? I know all about expectations,” Trump told CNN’s Dana Bash on Sunday. “If I came in second I wouldn’t be happy, okay?”
Bush, who for once equaled or even got the better of Trump on the debate stage on Saturday, has been mounting a last stand in New Hampshire and on Monday lashed out at the former reality TV star on Twitter.
“You aren’t just a loser, you are a liar and a whiner,” Bush wrote in an apparent reference to Trump’s claims of irregularities in the Iowa caucus results.
Trump had a scathing response in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer: “He’s a stiff. He’s not a guy that can be president. He doesn’t have what it takes.”
He continued, “He’s a desperate person. He’s a sad and, you know, he’s a pathetic person. He doesn’t even use his last name in his ads. He’s a sad person who has gone absolutely crazy. He’s a nervous wreck.”
The Democratic race between Clinton and Sanders also got testy, with a clash over the former New York senator’s ties to Wall Street and her campaign’s attacks on his foreign policy.
On Sunday, Bill Clinton slammed the Vermont senator’s supporters who he said subjected opponents to “vicious trolling and attacks that are literally too profane often — not to mention sexist — to repeat.”
Only hours from the primary, new clouds gathered around the Clinton campaign following a Politico report that the candidate and her husband were disappointed with the direction of her campaign and that a staff shakeup could be in the offing.
But Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta dismissed the report.
“There is zero truth to what you may be reading. It’s wrong. Hillary stands behind her team, period,” he wrote on Twitter.