After winning the Iowa Caucuses but falling behind several spots in New Hampshire, Texas Senator Ted Cruz still framed his finish in the Granite State as the latest example of his campaign defying expectations.
“Once again, the talking heads and the Washington insiders were confident that our wave of support would break against the rock of the Granite State. That a conservative, we were told, could not do well in the state of New Hampshire,” Cruz said, to some jeers.
“We were told that over and over again, and tonight the men and women here and all across this great state proved them wrong.”
When Cruz took the stage at his primary night rally at the Alpine Grove Banquet Facility in Hollis, he knew the race wasn’t settled – and at that point, the results had him effectively tied for third with Jeb Bush.
As far as Cruz and his supporters were concerned, it might as well have been a win.
While Donald Trump ramped up his insults against Cruz in recent weeks, the senator still made a point to congratulate the businessman on his first-place finish in New Hampshire — a shout-out that was met with boos from some in the audience. Cruz also praised John Kasich for his second-place finish.
Cruz came into New Hampshire fresh off a victory in the Iowa caucuses. His finish in New Hampshire, he said, was an important step toward another strong finish in South Carolina.
While Cruz didn’t campaign heavily in New Hampshire over the last year, he spent the last week holding rallies and town halls around the Granite State, pitching himself as a conservative who stood firm in his principles and could unite a broad coalition within the party.
On the ground in New Hampshire, Cruz relied on the backing of top conservatives like former Speaker of the House Bill O’Brien and U.S. Sen. Bob Smith, as well as the support of grassroots networks like the 603 Alliance.
“We did old fashioned things. We knocked on doors, we just met with our neighbors, we called our neighbors,” said Christine Buchanan, a volunteer from Sanbornton. “Senator Cruz often likes to say you can vote 10 times in each election if you get nine of your friends to vote, so that’s what we tried to do.”
Voters who showed up to celebrate with Cruz Tuesday night cited his social conservatism, his stances on immigration and the Second Amendment, and his strong grasp of the Constitution, among other issues.
“Looking at his records, he does what he says, and he has good morals,” said Ariana Dudley, of Epsom. Dudley, who said she’s attended four Cruz rallies before, said the senator’s focus on “security the border” and on “pro-life” issues resonated with her.
Richard Zaino said he’d been following Cruz for a few years, even before his presidential run.
“The thing on the senator that swayed me to him was his 2014 omnibus speech where he laid out how Washington works,” Zaino said, also citing Cruz’s opposition to amnesty.
Fran Wendelboe, an active Republican and former state legislator, was optimistic about Cruz’s prospects both in New Hampshire and nationally — even as the results showed Cruz still jostling with Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio for third place.
“I believe we’re going to end up in third place – it looks close, but, you know, third place made Rubio a rock star,” Wendelboe said, citing the Iowa outcome last week. “This is a vibrant campaign and this is definitely not over for Senator Cruz.”