Republican Pack Remains Tightly Bunched Mike Huckabee may have won over much of Iowa, but there's still no clear front runner for the GOP presidential nomination. That's evident in New Hampshire, where polls have John McCain a few points ahead of Mitt Romney.
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Republican Pack Remains Tightly Bunched

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Republican Pack Remains Tightly Bunched

Republican Pack Remains Tightly Bunched

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SCOTT SIMON, Host:

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.

MIKE HUCKABEE: 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.

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

(SOUNDBITE OF MITT ROMNEY'S CAMPAIGN AD)

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.

JOHN MCCAIN: 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.

JOSH ROBY: 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: Audie Cornish, NPR News, Manchester.

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