Signs Of 'Marco-mentum' For Rubio In New Hampshire Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is drawing big crowds in New Hampshire, where he's not just eyeing Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, but also hoping to wrap up after a strong showing in Iowa.

Signs Of 'Marco-mentum' For Rubio In New Hampshire

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Now for some Marco-mentum (ph). That's the phrase being heard in New Hampshire this week. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio surprised the political world with the strength of his third-place finish in Iowa. In New Hampshire, he wants to turn that momentum into a new role as the GOP's establishment candidate, something party leaders can rally around. NPR's Scott Detrow spent time on the campaign trail with Rubio and the increasingly large crowds who are coming to check him out.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: It's the night after the Iowa caucuses, and Marco Rubio is riding hot.

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MARCO RUBIO: As long as you don't say Polo, Polo.

DETROW: He's on the stage at the picturesque town hall in the center of Exeter, N.H., and the room is jam-packed with more than 700 people. Rubio's been giving this stump speech for months, most of it word-for-word. But tonight, the audience is eating up his story of growing up in an immigrant, working-class household.

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RUBIO: If what you want is to be financially successful and live in a house like that, you live in the one country in the world where it doesn't matter that your dad is a bartender and your mother's a maid. You can that, too.

(APPLAUSE)

DETROW: Republicans aren't too keen on comparisons to Barack Obama these days, but there's a bit of Obama in Rubio's candidacy - a powerful personal narrative that taps into the American dream and the visual appeal of a telegenic first-term lawmaker and his young family. That cuts both ways. Other Republicans are hammering Rubio for being too inexperienced. Perhaps mindful of that, he peppers his speeches with policy details. But Rubio is also appealing to Republican voters' pragmatic side.

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RUBIO: They do not want to run against me. There is a reason why the Democrats, and in particular Hillary Clinton, attack me five times for every time they attack someone else. They know that if I'm our nominee, they lose.

DETROW: That was Rubio inside an old hosiery mill, now a museum. It was filled to capacity with people who said they decided to come only after Rubio's stronger than expected third-place Iowa finish.

CHARLIE LAKE: I was surprised. I thought he would do well, but I didn't think he would do that well. He almost beat Trump in Iowa, and I was really impressed with that.

DETROW: That's Republican Charlie Lake.

LAKE: Lake is in Lake Winnipesaukee.

DETROW: He's impressed by Rubio's answers.

LAKE: But I'm also looking at Kasich. I'm not interested in Ted Cruz at all.

DETROW: That's exactly the kind of voter that Rubio and three establishment-lane governors - John Kasich, Chris Christie and Jeb Bush - are all fighting over. Their campaigns and affiliated super PACs have been hammering each other for months. Here's a radio spot from a pro-Bush group.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Marco Rubio. He's just not ready to be president.

DETROW: All three governors all putting all their chips in a strong New Hampshire showing, hoping after that, party leaders will rally around them against Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. But right now, it's Rubio who's picking up new endorsements from fellow U.S. Senators. Still, running for president in a year where so many voters are anti-Washington, Rubio wants to avoid looking too establishment.

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RUBIO: I can tell you that when it comes to the establishment, which is, people that have been involved in politics for a long time, they didn't want me to run for president. And they didn't want to me to run for Senate five years ago.

DETROW: But party leaders are desperate for someone to rally around. And if Rubio does well for a second week in a row, he'll likely be that candidate. Scott Detrow, NPR News, Manchester, N.H.

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