Manchester, NH (CBSMiami) – On a cold New Hampshire morning, with the temperature dipping to just six degrees, Nick Del’Etoile attended the latest in a series of presidential candidate forums hosted by the Derry Chamber of Commerce.
“I’m really undecided as a voter,” the 26-year-old said last month. “So I want to make sure I come out to all of these and hear what candidates have to say in a small forum.”
The two candidates he’s torn between – Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio.
“I like Rubio’s age. I like that he’s younger and he a different take on a lot of issues and he speaks to a different kind of generation,” Del’Etoile explained. “I think Jeb is the most capable candidate right now. If you were to be president tomorrow, I think out of everybody who’s running, Jeb makes the most sense
Del’Etoile’s dilemma perfectly illustrates the state of the race for the two presidential contenders from Miami. Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary is essentially now a race between Bush and Rubio – not for first, but for survival.
Neither of them has to win New Hampshire. Donald Trump is well ahead in the polls and is expected to finish first. Instead, Bush and Rubio are each fighting to do better than the other.
The prospect of two men, who live just a few minutes from one another in South Florida, travelling 1,500 to square off, is just another of the storylines that has made this race so interesting.
Both are making their best arguments to New Hampshire voters.
“We’re living in a complex world,” Bush told a town hall gathering in Dover. “I hope you want a president that has intellectual curiosity; that has enough humility to know what he doesn’t know and then seeks the very best advice. A president that is grounded in principal; a president that has core beliefs and whose compass points north.”
“We are on the verge of leaving an America to our children worse than the one our parents left us,” Rubio argued to voters attending a house party in Bedford. “The good news it doesn’t have to stay this way. This can be fixed. Because we are not a weak nation, and we are not a weak people, we just have a weak president.”
Rubio wants to solidify his place as the establishment candidate by finishing ahead of Bush, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Ohio Governor John Kasich.
The three governors want to finish ahead of Rubio so they don’t get written off.
The question for New Hampshire voters, who best addresses their fears and frustration.
“There are a lot of huge issues going on right now and they are not being addressed,” said Lauren Neves, “by either party.”
Neves, also undecided, attended the Chamber event in Derry where Bush spoke. A registered independent, New Hampshire law allows her to decide on Election Day if she wants to vote in the Republican or Democratic primary. She says when she does vote, she won’t tell anyone.
“The secret about me is my husband doesn’t even know who I vote for,” she said with a smile. “I keep that to myself.”
Sandra Ziehn, a local County Commissioner, is another late decider, but was now leaning Rubio after hearing him speak.
“Actually I liked him a lot better than I realized I would,” she said. “I had met him several times but never when he was in the heart of it – I mean we’re at the finishing line now. And almost everything he said I lined up with.”
Jeff Brown was a Trump supporter but his wife threatened to divorce him if he didn’t give other candidates a try. So he agreed to go to a Bush event and was surprised by the former Florida governor.
“In all of the hype that is going on in this silly season it was just wonderful to see him relaxed, not under attack in a debate and really being able to articulate what he believes what he stands for and what he believes he’s going to be able to do for America,” Brown said.
And his view now toward Trump?
“Trump if anything he’s going to be an agent for change,” he said. “That’s the way he’s presented himself. Whether that’s good change or whether that’s the kind of change done in a way that America really deserves and needs, I’m not sure.”
CBS4 News caught up with another one of the governors hoping for salvation in New Hampshire – Ohio Governor John Kasich.
“People think the system doesn’t work. I think they think they are being ripped off and the rich and the powerful are the ones who get to decide everything. I think they are very upset about it,” he said in an interview after a town hall event at the Hooksett American Legion Hall. “Their wages are not going up, they’re worried that their job is going to go away. So they are very upset about it and they are looking for somebody who’s going to shake the system up.”
Kasich has avoided attacking his rivals. When asked about Bush and Rubio, Kasich said, “Good guys, I mean Marco has a lot of great talent. Jeb Bush was a really good governor of Florida. And we’ll see what happens.”