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Down to the wire in New Hampshire

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Posted at 12:58 PM, Feb 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-09 20:59:50-05

Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Bernie Sanders remain atop the polls, but at least a third of the voters recently said they were undecided.

For Florida presidential hopefuls Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio that means a lot.

Bush, the former two-term Florida governor, made the rounds this morning talking to voters and shaking hands.

Bush is battling perceptions in New Hampshire and beyond. One includes the persistent claim from some voters that they just don't want a third Bush in the White House. That didn't go over well when I said that voters had mentioned the topic to me this week. Bush bristled and said, "Every person you talk to said that, wow. That's pretty amazing because everybody I talked to is saying I'm going to vote for you."

He was asked about the notion that it’s “do or die.”

“No, no, no, no. It’s not do or die. We have a real organization in South Carolina, the best organization in Nevada, a nationwide campaign,” he said.

If he has doubts he's not showing them. Bush said, "It's an arduous process but it's a blessing to be able to be a candidate for president. This still is the most extraordinary country in the world. I don't buy the idea that this is 'woe is me.' I view this as an incredible honor."

A different challenge faces Senator Marco Rubio, the rising political star from Miami. Bush and other GOP opponents keep hammering him with the "inexperience" tag. I asked Rubio about that. In a reference to his work on Senate foreign policy committees he told me, “I have more foreign policy experience than any other Republican running, in fact I have more foreign policy experience than everyone on that stage combined. And that’s the most important job of president.”

His critics will argue that is a stretch, but the fact is no one left in the Republican field, Rubio included, has broad, direct experience dealing with foreign policy.

The debate will go on. Rubio once called Jeb Bush his mentor. Now they fight for the same GOP voters-- each in the biggest political marathon of his life.

Carly Fiorina also made a campaign appearance Tuesday morning but had little to say to the media.

With the Republican candidates tightly grouped behind Trump the New Hampshire outcome is about momentum and perception.

As for Hillary Clinton, her aides say her stronger organization should help her after the New Hampshire primary.