Republican establishment leaders have begun conceding the first two key contests of the presidential race, in Iowa and New Hampshire next month. Trump and Cruz are atop the field in Iowa, where voters caucus Feb. 1. Preference polls find Trump with a commanding lead in New Hampshire, which votes Feb. 9, and Cruz in the mix for second place. The nine others in Republicans race are fighting to emerge from the pack; there’s little sign anyone will drop out before voting begins.
Among them are Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Each is competing for the same pool of center-right voters. Allies of Bush and Kasich in New Hampshire have been trading phone calls in recent weeks, trying to gauge each other’s thinking about staying in the race. Campaign officials say they have felt no direct pressure from party leaders to drop out before the first two contests. GOP leaders are beginning discussions about the need for some of the more conventional candidates to drop out. The risk for the more mainstream candidates is that Trump or Cruz generates momentum in the first two states, and it’s too strong to stop as the race turns to South Carolina and beyond.
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