Establishment hopefuls set for clash in New Hampshire

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MANCHESTER, New Hampshire (CNN) — Goodbye, Iowa.

The center of political gravity shifted east on Tuesday as presidential campaigns turned their focus to next week’s New Hampshire primary.

For Donald Trump, who claimed a disappointing second-place finish in Iowa on Monday night, the Granite State will be an opportunity for redemption.

For several Republicans, New Hampshire on February 9 will be the make or break contest of the 2016 primary.

And on the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders will look to hand Hillary Clinton a decisive loss after pulling into a virtual dead heat with the former secretary of state in Iowa.

Hours before the Iowa caucuses even got underway Monday night, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie touched down in New Hampshire. Ohio Gov. John Kasich hasn’t left the state since Friday.

But with Trump doubling and tripling the support of his closest competitors in the most recent polls, the rest of the Republican field isn’t vying for first place.

Instead, they’re looking to crown themselves as the most viable alternative to Trump and chasing the chance to rally the anti-Trump vote around their candidacy.

“Look, Trump’s the front-runner and there’s a jump ball for second with five candidates and that will be sorted out over the next few weeks,” Bush said last month in a candid interview with The Washington Post.

Beyond Bush, Christie and Kasich, there’s also Ted Cruz, the Texas senator who surged to victory over Trump in Iowa. Cruz was never expected to make a strong showing in New Hampshire, but the Texan has invested more heavily in the state in recent weeks and will look to surge to a strong showing here off his Iowa victory.

And Sen. Marco Rubio, sitting in third place after Iowa results rolled in, is looking to capitalize on his freshly-gained momentum to cement his status as the most viable establishment candidate to take on Trump and Cruz.

“It’s going to be a very intense week,” said Steve Duprey, an unaffiliated Republican National Committeeman who previously served as the New Hampshire GOP chair.

And at the end of it, Duprey said, “I think there’ll be a couple of candidates who will make a decision not to move on.”

Fergus Cullen, another former chair of the New Hampshire GOP who recently endorsed Kasich, described the fight as “mainstream Republican candidates” like Kasich, Christie, Bush and Rubio facing “an existential fight for survival.”

“The mainstream Republican candidate with the best chance to move forward will prove their viability by defeating the other candidates in New Hampshire,” Cullen said.

And in speeches late Monday night, Iowa’s top three contenders pointed to their path ahead.

Cruz began the joyous task of capitalizing on his newly-earned momentum, repeatedly hammering in three words: “Tonight is a victory,” he told an overjoyed Iowa crowd.

Rubio, for his part, also touted his close third-place finish as a win, portraying his strong showing as evidence his campaign is gaining the steam it needs to capture the Republican nomination.

Barely mentioning the GOP nomination fight he still faces, Rubio instead turned to the general election, striking a presidential tone and stressing the gravity of the choice voters will face between the Democratic and Republican nominee.

“When I am our nominee, we are going to unify this party and we are going to unify the conservative movement,” Rubio said.

Trump, meanwhile, offered a rare glimpse of humility in reaction to the Iowa results while still projecting confidence in the contest ahead.

“Unbelievable. I have to start by saying I absolutely love the people of Iowa. Unbelievable,” Trump said. “We finished second and I want to tell you something. I’m just honored. I’m really honored.”

Trump then boasted his strong polling numbers in Iowa and South Carolina, promising to his supporters that he would press forward to capture the GOP nod.

“We will go on to get the Republican nomination and we will go on to easily beat Hillary or Bernie or whoever the hell they throw up there,” Trump said.

Undecided New Hampshire Republican voters who participated in a CNN focus group had mixed reactions to Trump’s speech as men responded positively to Trump’s criticism of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton Monday night, while Republican women were largely indifferent.

On the Republican side in New Hampshire one voter, Lisa, said she thought Trump was “very divisive” in his remarks bringing up Clinton.

Just five of the more than two dozen Republicans who participated in the focus group said they had settled on a candidate after watching the Iowa caucus results come in.

The loss does hit directly at the “winner” brand Trump has incessantly pounded into voters’ minds, but longtime New Hampshire strategists said the Iowa results were unlikely to affect the New England contest.

“Historically it hasn’t mattered much,” Duprey said. “We’re different.”

Clinton, Sanders separated by razor-thin margin

On the Democratic side, Clinton and Sanders are pressing forward to the Granite State as Iowa’s caucus results are still being tallied, with a razor-thin margin separating the two.

But in New Hampshire, Sanders is well ahead in what officially became a two-person race Monday night after former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley dropped out of the race after registering less than 1% in Iowa.

“I am excited about really getting into the debate with Senator Sanders about the best way forward to fight for us and America,” Clinton said, teasing the New Hampshire contest and a newly-announced debate in the state later this week.

Without a clear victor, Sanders appeared best poised to claim a win in Iowa as he harkened back to the early days of his campaign, when he said his campaign “had no political organization, we had no money, we had no name recognition and we were taking on the most powerful political organization in the United States of America.”

A CNN/WMUR poll released Sunday found Sanders leading Clinton 57% to 34%.

Armed with that sense of victory — if not in numbers, then in the symbolism of his convention-defying effort — Sanders will now charge into New Hampshire, practically home turf for the Vermont senator.

For Sanders, Iowa was only the first step on the path to victory: “What Iowa has begun tonight is a political revolution.”