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Ted Cruz To Make 17 Stops During New Hampshire Bus Tour


And now to the presidential race. Ted Cruz landed in New Hampshire last night to start a 17-stop bus tour. Now, while he's going strong in the polls in Iowa, the conservative Texas senator faces a tougher fight in New Hampshire, which is known for picking establishment candidates. Here's NPR's Sarah McCammon.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: To kick off his campaign swing in Milford, N.H., Ted Cruz was ready with a salute to a local legend.


TED CRUZ: For the record, Tom Brady was framed.

MCCAMMON: That of course is the New England Patriots quarterback who was suspended last year and then had his suspension reversed by a judge over the football scandal known as Deflategate. A day after the Patriots won a big playoff game, Cruz spoke to an excited crowd packed into the Pasta Loft Restaurant.


CRUZ: I'm not willing to pander on much.


CRUZ: But on that, Tom Brady was framed. And I have it on good authority that Hillary Clinton was responsible.


MCCAMMON: With that, he launched into his stump speech before a rapt audience, who applauded and cheered, some even shouting amen as Cruz spoke. When it came time for a line criticizing President Obama's response to terrorism, the crowd joined in as Cruz promised that if he's elected...


CRUZ: We'll have a president willing to utter the words radical...

CRUZ AND UNIDENTIFIED SUPPORTERS: (In unison) Islamic terrorism.

MCCAMMON: Cruz is used to these enthusiastic responses in Iowa, where his conservative evangelical supporters are a big force. New Hampshire is known for picking establishment candidates. And yet this year, Donald Trump, the king of the antiestablishment, is way ahead in the polls. Former New Hampshire House Speaker Bill O'Brien, a co-chair for Cruz's campaign, told the crowd they have an important choice to make.


BILL O'BRIEN: We have to elect someone who is a proven conservative.


CRUZ: We have people who are coming before us and saying, you know, despite what I said in the past, I'm a Republican today.

MCCAMMON: A clear jab at Trump, who used to be a registered Democrat. NPR spoke to several New Hampshire voters this weekend who are choosing between Trump and Cruz. And despite Trump's solid lead in the state, many say they're impressed with Cruz too. Nelson Sherman of Nottingham is leaning toward the Texas senator.

NELSON SHERMAN: I think Washington needs somebody like Donald Trump, if he'd just think things through a little more. But I think he's a little too erratic for the way - what we need in the government. Other than that, change like him I think would be good and be refreshing.

MCCAMMON: Sherman also thinks Cruz has the right resume to be president. Political analyst Stu Rothenberg says that's a smart case for the renegade senator to make in New Hampshire, where even a second-place finish would be a major accomplishment for Cruz. Rothenberg says he appeals to Tea Party Republicans who are angry at the establishment.

STUART ROTHENBERG: But he has one thing that Trump doesn't have, and that is credentials.

MCCAMMON: If Cruz can first win Iowa, Rothenberg says that could help him pick off some New Hampshire voters who might be having second thoughts about Trump. Sarah McCammon, NPR News, Keene, N.H. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sarah McCammon worked for Iowa Public Radio as Morning Edition Host from January 2010 until December 2013.
Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.
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