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Republican candidates attend final Granite State GOP debate

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Saturday, February 6, 2016, 9:20 PM

Donald Trump (l.) speaks as Ted Cruz (r.) listens during the debate in Manchester, New Hampshire.CARLO ALLEGRI/REUTERS

Donald Trump (l.) speaks as Ted Cruz (r.) listens during the debate in Manchester, New Hampshire.

The final Granite State GOP showdown Saturday featured a tight field of presidential hopefuls fighting to stand out from the crowd.

Seven Republican candidates took to the debate stage Saturday night, facing off for the first time since the Iowa caucuses — and for the last time before Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary.

The debate, hosted by ABC News and held at St. Anselm College, featured a pared down field of hopefuls looking for one last push before voters take to the polls in the Granite State.

Donald Trump, who skipped the previous debate due to a feud with Fox News, was back at center stage Saturday, rejoining his rival GOP candidates.

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After an awkward introduction session, Trump, who remains at the head of the pack in New Hampshire, was joined by Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Marco Rubio, Dr. Ben Carson, former Gov. Jeb Bush, Gov. Chris Christie and Gov. John Kasich.

Seven Republican candidates took to the debate stage Saturday night, facing off for the first time since the Iowa caucuses — and for the last time before Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary.JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

Seven Republican candidates took to the debate stage Saturday night, facing off for the first time since the Iowa caucuses — and for the last time before Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary.

“I actually think I have the best temperament,” Trump said in response to the first question about his ability to govern.

The reality TV star took 34% in the latest UMass-Lowell tracking poll and Rubio was on the rise with 15%, Cruz has fallen one point behind to 14 % — taking third place.

But Cruz was still riding high after his win in Iowa, turning to the Democrats immediately.

“I am convinced anyone standing on this stage would make a much better commander in chief than Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders,” Cruz said.

After a strong third place finish in Iowa, Rubio was the target of attacks from Christie and others.

“You have not been involved in a consequential decision, where you had to be held accountable, you just simply haven’t,” Christie said during a heated exchange.

Rubio tried to defend himself by sticking to his stump speech, attacking President Obama, a move that Christie calling him out on.

“That’s what Washington DC does. The drive-by shot at the beginning, with incorrect information, and then the memorized 25-second speech that his advisers gave him,” Christie says. “The 30 second speech doesn’t solve one problem.”

For Bush, Kasich, Christie and Carson, New Hampshire could prove to be a last stnad for their faltering campaigns.

Kasich and Bush are in dead heat in New Hampshire with 8% support in recent polls. Christie trails behind at 5%.

At a campaign stop in Claremont, New Hampshire this week, Kasich told a crowd of supporters if he gets “smoked” in the primaries he will likely quit the race.

While Trump shrugged off his absence from last week’s debate, another GOP candidate was not pleased with being denied a spot on stage.

Carly Fiorina failed to make the cut.

Fiorina, the only Republican woman running for president, has protested her exclusion, and party leaders such as 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney have come to her defense.

Fiorina argued that despite low polling numbers she finished ahead of Christie and Kasich in Iowa.

With News Wire Services


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