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Republican Pack Remains Tightly Bunched

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Republican Pack Remains Tightly Bunched

Election 2008

Republican Pack Remains Tightly Bunched

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Mike Huckabee may have won over much of Iowa, but there's still no clear frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. That's evident in New Hampshire, where porrs(ph) - forgive me - polls show John McCain just a few points ahead of Mitt Romney, and where Mr. Huckabee is competing for number three with Rudy Giuliani.

NPR's Audie Cornish reports on how the Republican race is shaping up.

AUDIE CORNISH: Each of the current frontrunners in the New Hampshire primary race faces what may be is make-or-break moment in this campaign. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is working to prove his Iowa win was not a fluke borne of special appeal to evangelical voters.

Mr. MIKE HUCKABEE (Former Republican Governor, Arkansas; Republican Presidential Candidate): You know, I've not lived here, I've not perhaps run for office here before, and I've not spent gazillions of dollars. All I got to do is just - what my wife tell you - I'm a wonderful person and maybe you'll believe me. I don't know.

CORNISH: And after spending millions in Iowa, only to come in second to Mike Huckabee, former Governor Mitt Romney was downplaying his so-called silver-medal finish.

Mr. MITT ROMNEY (Former Republican Governor, Massachusetts; Republican Presidential Candidate): The message I got out of Iowa was that people in Iowa said they want change. The two Washington insiders - John McCain and Hillary Clinton - both lost; John McCain by a lot. And I look at that and say, what you're seeing from the people of Iowa is they want someone from outside Washington to come in and change things in Washington. And that's right up my alley.

CORNISH: In his pursuit of a rebound, right now Romney finds John McCain his chief obstacle. In Web and TV ads this week, Romney is playing up every and any doubt voters could have about the Arizona senator.

(Soundbite of Mitt Romney's campaign ad)

Unidentified Woman: But McCain is not as conservative as Romney.

Unidentified Man: He opposed the Bush tax cuts - twice.

Unidentified Woman: His campaign finance law limits free speech.

Unidentified Man: He pushed a plan to keep illegal immigrants here permanently.

CORNISH: And for his part, McCain, too, needs a first-place finish here to recapture the magic of 2000, imploring the voters who once handed him a win here then to give him another chance. And as he does that, he warns them of the negative ads to come. Ads that try to alienate the hawkish, fiscal conservatives McCain has been targeting here of late.

Senator JOHN McCAIN (Republican, Arizona; Republican Presidential Candidate): My friends, I'm a proud Republican. I'm a proud Ronald Reagan Republican. I'm a Theodore Roosevelt Republican. I am a proud conservative. But we, Republicans, betrayed our base when we let spending get completely out of control. When we…

CORNISH: McCain knows a poor showing in Iowa does not eliminate him here. Most voters here insist Iowa won't dictate their choices. For instance, when it comes to Huckabee, Josh Roby(ph) of Hollis has his doubts.

Mr. JOSH ROBY (Resident, Hollis, New Hampshire): We just got back from visiting the middle of the country. And it's an interesting place to visit but it's different than it is here certainly in the northeast. And he's just frankly a little too Christian right wing, I think, for most of the people around here.

CORNISH: These show-disregard-for-the-Iowa results could be good news for another former frontrunner, New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. He did little in Iowa and finished sixth there, preferring to focus on the mega states that will vote later. But this week, he has returned from campaigning in Florida and elsewhere to make a late bid for a good showing in New Hampshire.

If New Hampshire doesn't care what's gone before, Giuliani should start with a blank slate here, making him yet another Republican hopeful whose hopes may rise or fall on this Tuesday's vote.

Audie Cornish, NPR News, Manchester.

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