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GOP Presidential Hopefuls Converge In New Hampshire


Just about every Republican politician with an eye on the presidency in 2016 is in Nashua, N.H., this weekend - a chance for the well-known and not-so-well-known to show what they're made of. The New Hampshire Republican Party is hosting this early lineup in the state that will hold the nation's first primary in 2016. New Hampshire Public Radio's Josh Rogers is there and joins us. Josh, has there been kind of a common theme you've been hearing from these candidates today?

JOSH ROGERS: A contempt for the policies of the Obama administration, a call for Republicans to rally together for conservative principles - nothing really unexpected, lots of red meat. This is a kind of cattle-call event - a lot of talk about things like Common Core, about failures abroad and the estimation of the Republicans of - you know, it's been interesting to hear the ways - the subtle ways, though - in which the candidates have tried to distinguish themselves. With so many people running, you know, everybody's trying to sort of play the type.

But they're all - they're sort of primaries within primaries, the - who's going to stake up the most conservative position. Ted Cruz was really going sort of hammer and tong for that this afternoon. Rand Paul's talked about trying to broaden the base of the party, and he was talking about how Republicans need to be the party that stands up for every amendment in the Bill of Rights. Jeb Bush was focusing on making sure voters are aware that he had a conservative record in Florida and that while he's certainly the pick of a lot of establishment Republicans here, that he shouldn't be mistaken for a Republican in name only, or RINO. And then people like Marco Rubio - he was really stressing a biographical line of argument. That's a common thing in his stump speech - the story of his parents' immigration from Cuba, that he's the son of a bartender, that America needs to be a place where everyone can have opportunity and his belief that that can be done if the country steers towards more conservative principles of government.

RATH: So were all the major candidates represented there? Were there any big names among the Republican contenders who were missing today?

ROGERS: No. The only big name - and you know, it's unclear if he's going to get in the race - that didn't make this thing was, you know, Dr. Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon. But everybody was there, from Bush with Scott Walker to people like Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, Mike Huckabee, Carly Fiorina - pretty much anyone you can think of who's eyeing or acting like they could get in the race - 19 people in all. And one thing that's been interesting to hear from a lot of the activists is that - how welcoming they were to hearing from, you know, such a broad swath of the party and the fact that there really, at this point, doesn't seem to be any clear front runner. And most Republicans I talked to said that they don't see that changing anytime soon.

RATH: And were there any of them that connected with the crowd especially better than the others?

ROGERS: I think Paul went over pretty big. Ted Cruz is - you know, he's a pretty stirring order in a partisan crowd. They went over pretty big. I think Rubio did OK. And it was interesting to also watch some of the lesser-known candidates. John Kasich, Ohio's governor, did pretty well. And even somebody like Lindsey Graham, who - you know, a lot of people don't think he's going to end up running. Who knows? He said he's seriously considering it. You know, he went over pretty big with the crowd by stressing a very hawkish message. And so, you know, these are core Republican activists in the audience, and so they were welcoming to all. But there was no - no one really, you know, stood out hugely, and no one really fell on their face.

RATH: That's New Hampshire Public Radio's Josh Rogers. Josh, thanks very much.

ROGERS: You're welcome, Arun. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.