Inside the New Hampshire pitch to those who don't want Trump

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — For all the passionate support Donald Trump has amassed in New Hampshire, many Republicans and independent voters are just as passionate about not voting for Donald Trump.

They are an enticing target for the pack of Republicans off the front-runner's pace, who seek to turn a second-place finish in the nation's first primary — or maybe even an upset win — into validation they're the candidate best able to challenge the brash real estate billionaire in South Carolina and beyond.

Those voters are also a stressed-out bunch, as they take in town halls with Chris Christie and Jeb Bush, and attend rallies with Marco Rubio and meet and greets with John Kasich.

"I only have, like, six weeks to make up my mind, and this is making me sick," said Linda Fournier of Salem, who's been keeping a close eye on the contest for nearly a year. "I actually go to bed at night worrying about this. This is just one vote, but it's so important to me."

Those four candidates are generally viewed as able to win over a GOP establishment worried about the prospect of Trump or Texas Sen. Ted Cruz as their party's nominee. They combine for roughly 45 percent of support in recent preference polls — enough to top Trump as one, but fall far short split between them.

New evidence of the intensity between the four emerges daily in the form of escalating attacks in ads, in interviews and at their events. The four share similar ideas about policy and politics, but their pitch to voters differ as they seek to come out on top.

What they all agree on: It's in New Hampshire where their White House aspirations may find life — or come to an end.

"You are among the most powerful people in the world right now," Christie told voters at a recent town hall with the Manchester Rotary Club. "You and you alone will decide who the other 48 states have to pick from to be the Republican nominee for president of the United States."

For Christie, the New Jersey governor who thrives on one-on-one interaction, the setting of choice has been town halls. Christie seeks to present himself as a relatable everyman, peppering the events with life stories and personal anecdotes, weaving between well-tested tear-jerkers and lines that leave attendees laughing out loud.

Since the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Christie has increasingly put the focus on his record as a U.S. attorney, the job he held before he was governor. He calls himself a battle-tested crime fighter who has the fire to appeal to Trump voters who are angry about the country's direction, but comes with the executive governing experience the former reality TV star lacks.

"He's very down-to-earth. He cares," said Anne Kagen, a nursing assistant from Manchester.

Bush, the former Florida governor, has spent much of the race trying to convince voters that he's the candidate they need, even though he may not be the one who excites them the most.

In mid-December, Bush moved away from his on-and-off, sometimes indirect jabs at Trump. In its place came an uninhibited attack on the national GOP front-runner, who Bush calls the "chaos candidate" as he mocks his debate answers and policy proposals.

With his penchant for promoting what he calls "disruptive" policy reform, Bush presents his eight years as governor of Florida as the centerpiece of his candidacy. He touts Florida as "a diverse, vibrant" place, and a perennial swing state worth a whopping 29 electoral votes.

"I like Marco Rubio because he's moderate," said Novelline Clayburgh, a Republican voter from Portsmouth. "But Jeb Bush did a fantastic job as governor. And I think we're better off electing a governor."

Rubio, the Florida senator, centers his campaign pitch on his personal biography, attempting to craft an aspirational message that appeals to voters across a broad spectrum of the Republican Party. While Rubio is fighting to be the mainstream alternative to Trump, he's actively trying to distance himself from the "establishment" label.

"When I decided to run for president, many of the same people in the establishment said, 'You can't run, it's not your turn, you need to wait,' and my answer's, 'Wait for what?'" Rubio says often.

Like Rubio, Ohio Gov. John Kasich makes his life story a key part of his pitch. He also stresses his record as governor of a key swing state and his work in Congress as the chair of the House Budget Committee, while adding that he's prepared to buck the Republican establishment — and has on issues such as expanding Medicaid.

"I'm talking to everybody, because I feel like it's a message that can connect with everyone," Kasich said. "That's why I'm optimistic, and frankly it's why we're doing better and better up here.

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