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GOP Presidential Candidates Put Iowa Behind Them, Court N.H. Voters

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

OK. Let's catch up now with Republicans campaigning in New Hampshire. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are trying to build on the momentum they found in Iowa. Chris Christie and Jeb Bush are trying to nudge each other out of the way. And Donald Trump - well, after his humbling second-place finish in Iowa, he's trying to bounce back. Here's NPR's Asma Khalid.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Ted Cruz ought to be the candidate walking into New Hampshire with a winner's smile, but New Hampshire is not Iowa where 60 percent of Republican voters are white evangelicals. Here, it's 20 percent. Still, Cruz visited a church and then claimed for himself the one Republican legacy that almost all Republicans agree on, Ronald Reagan.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

TED CRUZ: We saw that old Reagan coalition coming back together again. We saw conservatives and evangelicals and libertarians and Reagan Democrats all standing together, saying, what on earth are we doing?

KHALID: He thanked New Hampshire for helping to elect Reagan and then threw some jabs at Marco Rubio about his immigration position.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

CRUZ: Marco made the decision - the conscious, deliberate decision - to go and stand with Barack Obama and Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid and to lead the fight for amnesty.

KHALID: Cruz was not the only one targeting Rubio. The Florida senator came in third place in Iowa but did better than expected and so now he's getting attention and attacks from all directions. Here's New Jersey Governor Chris Christie playing on Rubio's youth.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

CHRIS CHRISTIE: We know who the boy in the bubble is up here, who never answers your questions, who's constantly scripted and controlled - because he can't answer your questions.

KHALID: Rubio, though, seemed unfazed. At a town hall in Exeter, he pointed to the road ahead and complimented New Hampshire voters.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

MARCO RUBIO: It is not enough to be angry. You have a right to be angry, but anger is not a plan, and perhaps no state in the country demands more of their candidates than New Hampshire does - and you should. The role you play is so important.

KHALID: There's a momentum behind Rubio here. His supporters are excited and say he's the party's best hope to beat Hillary Clinton. But momentum is relative. About an hour west, Donald Trump was taking the stage before thousands.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

DONALD TRUMP: Marco Rubio - nice guy. He's a senator, does this stuff for a living. He's a professional politician. He comes in third. I come in second.

KHALID: Whatever humility Trump might've shown immediately after Iowa was nowhere to be seen last night. In New Hampshire, it was back to an evening of swagger.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

TRUMP: The headlines were, Trump comes in second, he's humiliated. I come in second. I'm not humiliated.

KHALID: There were no signs of a weakened candidate. In fact, many of his supporters say the results in Iowa don't mean much here. Voter Connie Weltzer says no one expected Trump to do well with Iowa evangelicals.

CONNIE WELTZER: Cruz and Rubio are both playing the card of going to church on Sundays. Trump doesn't necessarily do that...

HELEN GORDON: And I don't think church should have anything to do with politics.

WELTZER: Absolutely not, absolutely not.

KHALID: That was Connie's friend, Helen Gordon, who chimed in at the end. Trump supporters here show no major side effects from Iowa, but Trump himself is changing his tune about winning and losing - ever so slightly. He told reporters he would love to finish first here, but if he didn't, it wouldn't be horrible. Asma Khalid, NPR News, Manchester, N.H. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.