Candidates And Candidates-To-Be Woo New Hampshire's GOP : It's All Politics Republican candidates — those who've already declared and those who have yet to — gathered in New Hampshire this weekend to speak to their party. Whose messages resonated? And whose did not?
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Candidates And Candidates-To-Be Woo New Hampshire's GOP

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Candidates And Candidates-To-Be Woo New Hampshire's GOP

Candidates And Candidates-To-Be Woo New Hampshire's GOP

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/400750458/400750459" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

GOP presidential hopefuls, from Marco Rubio to Donald Trump, descended on New Hampshire this weekend. The 19 candidates and potential candidates gathered in Nashua for an event sponsored by the state Republican Party. As New Hampshire Public Radio's Josh Rogers reports, they wooed activists and jockeyed for early position in the state that holds that all-important first presidential primary.

JOSH ROGERS, BYLINE: For Republicans running for president or eyeing it, this weekend was a big opportunity, a chance to talk directly to hundreds of core activists who power winning campaigns. And with the 2016 field lacking a clear front-runner, there were plenty of conservative GOP voters, like Lisa Mediano, eager to make clear they're in no hurry to anoint one.

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LISA MEDIANO: I don't want a coronation on our side by any stretch of the imagination.

JEB BUSH: I don't see any coronation...

ROGERS: Mediano's words were directed at Jeb Bush, right after he finished his speech. The former Florida governor replied, he isn't expecting a coronation.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MEDIANO: Good. I'm glad you feel like that.

BUSH: What are you seeing that I'm not seeing?

MEDIANO: I hope you feel like an underdog.

BUSH: We've got 95 people possibly running for president. I'm really intimidating a whole bunch of folks, aren't I?

ROGERS: Everyone laughed, but many in the room also know a strong finish in New Hampshire is important for Bush. And he's not the only one. If New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is to climb back in the polls, New Hampshire will likely be crucial. As he arrived in Nashua, Christie was quick to talk up his local ties.

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: I love the state. I've spent a lot of time, as you know, here in '11 and '12 for Governor Romney and then in '14. So it's easy to be back.

ROGERS: Rand Paul, one of the three declared candidates, is more blunt about what role New Hampshire and its activists need to play for him. He says New Hampshire is must-win. And the Kentucky senator won a standing ovation when he said Hillary Clinton's handling of the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya should disqualify her from holding any office. But Paul also took aim at the GOP for not pitching small government to every voter everywhere.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

SENATOR RAND PAUL: We need to talk to rich, poor, white, black, brown. We've got to get out there and go places we haven't gone.

ROGERS: But before any reaching out, these candidates will be putting the arm on typical primary voters. When doing that, a fresh record backing conservative causes helps. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker ticked through a list of accomplishments - limiting the power of unions, cutting funding for Planned Parenthood, relaxing gun policies and requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GOVERNOR SCOTT WALKER: We decided to go big and go bold. We didn't hold back. We said it's put up or shut up time.

ROGERS: Top local Republicans see the race for 2016 as completely up for grabs. Tom Rath is a former RNC member who's advised numerous presidential campaigns.

TOM RATH: If you're saying to me is this as open and as fluid and as available as a I've ever seen, by far. Nothing - I can't even remember anything as close.

ROGERS: For party regulars and candidates alike, the next 10 months could be a long, winnowing process. Timothy Twombly, a local state rep, says he doesn't have a clue who might win his support.

REPRESENTATIVE TIMOTHY TWOMBLY: I'm kind of thinking that the person that I want has got to have been in an executive position. So the people I'm really looking at are the governors.

ROGERS: Which does narrow things down a bit. After all, only nine governors or former governors spoke in Nashua. For NPR News, I'm Josh Rogers in Nashua, N.H.

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