Republicans Shift Gears, Set Sights on Fast-Approaching New Hampshire
Huckabee, who drew support from evangelical Republicans in Iowa, told morning news shows Friday that his campaign is about more than his religious background.
“This campaign is not just about people who have religious fervor,” he said, reported the Associated Press. “It’s about people who love America, but want it to be better and believe that change is necessary and it’s not going to happen from within Washington.”
He cited his support in Delaware and Michigan as proof of his broader appeal.
But recent New Hampshire polls have been all about former Gov. Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain. New Hampshire is a more secular state, and has a record of disagreeing with Iowa’s top choices from the caucus.
Romney, who spend more money and time campaigning in Iowa than any of his competitors, will have to bounce back from a nearly double digit blow in the caucus- he finished 9 percentage points behind Huckabee.
“You win the silver in one event, it doesn’t mean you’re not going to come back and win the gold in the final event, and that we’re going to do,” Romney told supporters on Friday.
For McCain, who finished fourth in Iowa, returning to New Hampshire will be a pivotal test of his ability to reach voters. New Hampshire was the site of a big win for him in the 2000 primaries, when he beat then-Gov. George W. Bush by 18 percentage points.
McCain has struggled to recapture the energy and enthusiasm of that campaign, but is optimistic about his chances in the Granite State and arrived there Thursday night to begin his final push.
Without mentioning Romney by name McCain told reporters Friday why he thought Huckabee was successful.
“I think that the lesson of this election in Iowa is that, one, you can’t buy an election in Iowa; and, two, that negative campaigns don’t work,” said McCain, reported Congressional Quarterly. “They don’t work there, and they don’t work here in New Hampshire.”
Romney has attacked McCain over his past stances on immigration and taxes in ads that are airing in New Hampshire. McCain has responded with ads questioning Romney’s shifting stances on issues.
The race’s late entrant, Fred Thompson finished third in Iowa, just above McCain. Rumors had been swirling that Thompson would bow out after Iowa, but the former Tennessee senator seemed buoyed by Thursday’s results.
“It’s pretty clear we’re gonna have a ticket to the next dance,” Thompson told supporters. “It looks like somebody is going to need to carry a strong, consistent, conservative message – and it looks like it ought to be me.”
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has focused most of his energy on states that come later in the primary process, like New York and California and was largely absent from the campaigning slog in Iowa. He did get a jump start on rallying his support by arriving in New Hampshire Thursday while many candidates were still tied up in Iowa.
All the candidates will have at least two more opportunities to sell their message to New Hampshire voters-an ABC forum on Saturday night and another on Sunday night on Fox News.