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Donald Trump Steps Up Attacks After Loss To Ted Cruz In Iowa

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

In the wake of his Iowa loss, Donald Trump is now accusing Ted Cruz of stealing that election and much more. Here he is on the campaign trail in New Hampshire.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: I have been opposed to Obamacare from the day they conceived it, and Ted Cruz comes out with an ad that I'm in favor of Obamacare - can you believe this? - just like he did with Carson, where Carson, he said, left Iowa. He's out of the race. Vote for him. These are dishonest people, these politicians. These are worse than real estate people in New York. I'm telling you.

CORNISH: Joining us now is Domenico Montanaro, NPR's lead politics editor. Hey there, Domenico.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey there.

CORNISH: So what is Trump talking about there with Ted Cruz and Ben Carson? Give us the details.

MONTANARO: Well, here's what he's talking about. On Monday night during the caucuses, Ben Carson issued this statement saying he was going home to Florida (laughter) after Iowa votes. Now, that got a lot of people wondering if Carson was dropping out. He hasn't dropped out, but the Cruz campaign capitalized on it, suggested to voters during caucusing that Carson was quitting. Trump took that to Twitter, his favorite medium, and said Ted Cruz didn't win Iowa; he stole it.

CORNISH: All right, but is there any chance Iowa would nullify the result or something like that?

MONTANARO: No, there's not a chance of that, Audie. And Ted Cruz, you know, accused Trump of sour grapes and said he's just having what he called a Trumper-tantrum.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: We finished second, and I want to tell you something. I'm just honored. I'm really honored. And I want to congratulate Ted. And I want to congratulate all of the incredible candidates. Congratulations to everybody.

MONTANARO: Now that tone is a lot different than what we heard. That was a conciliatory Donald Trump. And, you know, I was struck watching that speech that night because he's usually so boastful. And in that clip we just heard, he was much more subdued. He'd been touting that he had been in the lead in all the polls in Iowa and everywhere else. And he may have been genuinely surprised, actually, that he didn't pull out a win in Iowa. What he learned is something some of us have known for some time, Audie, that polls aren't always right (laughter). It's certainly a different guy campaigning in New Hampshire though this time.

CORNISH: Right, talk about that campaigning. I mean, how is this all playing out with voters?

MONTANARO: Well, you know, Trump's still in the lead there. He's held a double-digit lead in New Hampshire for six straight months. That's pretty incredible. But Cruz is hoping for a better showing, and we're seeing some momentum shift to Marco Rubio. The Florida senator is seeing some of his biggest crowds of this campaign. People are pretty surprised that he was able to almost beat Donald Trump. And he's hoping to sneak into maybe a close second-place finish or at least come out ahead of the three Republican governors that are chasing him for that so-called establishment lane.

CORNISH: And those three governors, who has the most to lose?

MONTANARO: Well, look, you've got Ohio Governor John Kasich. He's got some momentum there. He'd gotten the endorsement of The Boston Globe newspaper. Chris Christie has spent a lot of time there as well. He's putting everything on the line. He got the endorsement of the state's biggest newspaper, the New Hampshire Union Leader. But it's all on the line for one person in particular, the former Florida governor Jeb Bush. Bush, by the way, Audie, is calling in a powerful reinforcement on the campaign trail today - his mother, Barbara Bush.

CORNISH: Oh, really? A little bit of a surprise though - right? - given comments that she's made in the past?

MONTANARO: Well, you know, she started out saying that she didn't think that the - she thought that the country had had enough of the Bushes, right? But she changed her tone after she learned that her son was pretty serious about actually running.

CORNISH: OK, one voter won over. And are we on any other kind of watch for other candidates? I know we've been sort of eyeing who might drop out.

MONTANARO: Yeah, I mean, I think that we're going to have to look at obviously Marco Rubio and how he winds up doing. He's, like I said, gained a lot of - in these crowds. We are starting to see some candidates get out of the race. Rick Santorum got out yesterday, Rand Paul the day before that, Mike Huckabee, Martin O'Malley on the Democratic side. So the field is definitely narrowing. Like I tell a lot of people, this is the busiest time of the year. It's going to get a little bit easier.

CORNISH: NPR's Domenico Montanaro. Domenico, thanks so much.

MONTANARO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.