Political surveys in New Hampshire on Monday showed billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump continuing to hold a substantial lead in the first U.S. Republican presidential primary election, as his rivals traded barbs in hopes of winning last-minute support from undecided voters.
The large field of Republican candidates spent the last hours before Tuesday's balloting holding campaign rallies, answering voters' questions at town hall gatherings and sitting down for television interviews.
A collection of surveys showed the flamboyant Trump, a political novice, with about 30 percent of the Republican vote, double that or more recorded for several of his opponents, including Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Ohio Governor John Kasich, former Florida governor Jeb Bush and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
No one was conceding the northeastern state's contest to Trump. His rivals fired verbal salvos at Trump, but they mostly aimed their attacks at each other, hoping to gain an advantage in the voting in other states in the weeks ahead in the marathon U.S. campaign.
VOA reporters on New Hampshire voters:
Bush, Trump, Kasich
Bush, the son and brother of two U.S. presidents, attacked Trump for his four corporate bankruptcy filings and the barrage of insults he has leveled at the Republican field; but, Bush also released a new online ad aimed at Kasich, attacking his perceived lack of conservative credentials in governing Ohio, which often proves to be a bellwether state in U.S. presidential elections.
"Jeb is the conservative you can trust," the Bush ad argues.
Christie continued to belittle Rubio's political experience, as he did in Saturday's Republican debate, calling the first-term Florida senator a "talented guy," who can "deliver a speech, read a teleprompter."
Rubio dismissed criticism of his debate performance, where he repeated attacks on Democratic President Barack Obama several times in an almost word-by-word recitation of his claim that Obama is purposely diminishing the status of the United States on the global stage. Rubio said that afterward, it was his campaign's "greatest fundraising night."
"Voters across the country and especially here in New Hampshire got to hear me say repeatedly the truth: that Barack Obama is trying to redefine the role of government in our country and America's role in the world," Rubio said on "CBS This Morning."
VOA reporters on the Republican candidates:
In the Democratic primary, surveys show Bernie Sanders, the self-described Democratic socialist from the neighboring state of Vermont, with a large lead over former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.
"We have come a long way in the last nine months," Sanders told a rally in the city of Nashua. "There is nothing, nothing, nothing that we cannot accomplish."
VOA reporters on the Democratic candidates:
Clinton, the country's top diplomat from 2009 to 2013, narrowly edged Sanders in last week's party caucuses in the farm state of Iowa; but, she has acknowledged that she faces an uphill fight to overcome Sanders in New Hampshire.
"For all those of you who are still deciding, still shopping, I hope I can close the deal between now and the time the polls close," Clinton told a Manchester rally.
National surveys show Clinton and Sanders locked in a tight contest for the party's presidential nomination, a marked contrast to the last several months that showed Clinton with a large lead.