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N.H. Voters To Decide If Rubio Builds On Iowa Caucuses' Momentum


Throughout the morning, we've been listening to voices from New Hampshire, which holds its presidential primary today. And now the voice of Republican candidate Marco Rubio. He came out of Iowa with a lot of momentum. After a debate in New Hampshire, though, he was criticized for sounding scripted and repetitive. Rubio is unapologetic, as NPR's Asma Khalid reports.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Marco Rubio's final pitch to voters sounded remarkably similar to the pitch he's made throughout this campaign.


MARCO RUBIO: When I'm our nominee, we will bring this party together. We will bring the conservative movement together.

KHALID: He repeated an iteration of his now famously mocked debate line.


RUBIO: And that is one of the key and cornerstones of this campaign. That's why I'm going to keep saying it over and over again. Barack Obama has damaged America. We are going to make it right again.

KHALID: But this time, the crowd erupted in cheers and stomped their feet on the bleachers. It was like a pep rally before the game. The Florida senator tried to show voters he could be the Republican for all. And when you talk to voters, they often see whatever version of Rubio they want - the uniter, the conservative, the immigrant hero or the electable Republican. Take Ann Lane.

ANN LANE: Marco is a team builder. He has the charisma of JFK.

KHALID: And then, take Megan Clark.

MEGAN CLARK: We really like his family values - just his stance on abortion.

KHALID: But there are still some who question Rubio's record - or lack of a record. At Rubio's final rally last night, someone started shouting no record, no experience.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: No record, no experience.

KHALID: The protest was quickly drowned out by cheers.


UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Marco, Marco, Marco.

KHALID: But the Florida senator, who came to New Hampshire with Marco-mentum (ph) is now trying to put the brakes on how that momentum is perceived. At one point, he seemed to be lowballing expectations.


RUBIO: Get your friends and family to vote because we're going to do as well as we possibly can.

KHALID: Afterwards, he spoke with reporters and tried to drill home that a win in New Hampshire will be tough.


RUBIO: But Donald is the front-runner in New Hampshire. He's polled consistently ahead of everybody else now since June, and you've got some people that have been in the state full time, basically - campaigns that have no other campaign anywhere else. So, you know, it's going to be a very competitive night. And it's going to be very close.

KHALID: But Rubio needs a solid finish here, because while third place in Iowa was considered a win, a weak third place or worse in New Hampshire could be a major disappointment. Asma Khalid, NPR News, Manchester, N.H. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.
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