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article imageDonald Trump expected to return to Republican Party debate roster

By Nathan Salant     Feb 6, 2016 in Politics
Manchester - Opinion poll-leading Republican presidential nomination candidate Donald Trump is expected to join six challengers Saturday night in the last debate before New Hampshire primary voters cast ballots on Tuesday.
Trump, the billionaire real estate mogul who had dominated the polls before finishing second in last week's Iowa caucuses, has said he would rejoin the stage after boycotting the last Republican Party debate in a dispute with Fox News.
Tonight's debate, being televised by ABC News, begins at 8 p.m. Saturday at St. Anselm College in Manchester, Vermont's largest city.
Tuesday's New Hampshire primary is the nation's first.
Trump still leads in the polls, but now faces a surging campaigns from Texas senator Ted Cruz, who finished first in Iowa, and Florida senator Marco Rubio, who finished a surprise third, according to the Associated Press.
California businesswoman Carly Fiorina was excluded from the debate because of low poll numbers, the AP said.
But it is Trump who may have the most to prove Tuesday after finishing behind Cruz in Iowa.
Trump, who is financing his own campaign, is not dependent on campaign contributions to stay in the race but needs to finish first to revive his momentum, which may be flagging for the first time.
"I think we should have come in first, to be honest with you, a lot of things happened there," Trump said about Iowa at a campaign rally Friday in South Carolina, site of the next Republican primary on Feb. 20.
"A lot of things happened," he said.
The Democratic Party holds its New Hampshire primary on Feb. 27.
Fellow candidate Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey told a campaign rally in Bedford, NH, on Saturday that Trump would be welcomed "with open arms" back to the debate stage and joked that he was happy that "none of you people made enough fun of Donald Trump to make him not come tonight."
But it was Rubio's surprise finish in Iowa that has attracted the most attention, seemingly allowing him to gain an edge as a more-mainstream candidate than the bombastic Trump and the very conservative Cruz, who won the state.
Rubio's relative success in Iowa has brought him under intense criticism, with campaign rivals questioning his experience and labeling him as overly scripted, the AP said.
"He's a great guy, but he's not a leader," said former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who once was viewed as the favorite for the Republican nomination but has since fallen back.
Christie has repeatedly called Rubio a "bubble boy" whose staff protects him from tough questions about his record and his plans for the White House.
Bush, Christie and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are all in danger of having to drop out of the nomination race if they do poorly in New Hampshire, as is retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.
Carson took time off from campaigning after a disappointing finish in Iowa and has not been a major presence in New Hampshire, the AP said.
More about 2016, Presidential election, Primary, New hampshire, first primary
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