Donald Trump held court in New Hampshire Friday, while his presidential competitors in both parties hustled through Iowa in a last-minute scramble to win over fence-sitters before the state's crucial caucuses.
Hundreds of voters waited Trump's arrival in Nashua for a rally scheduled the morning after a Fox News debate the Republican front-runner shunned in favor of hosting his own show — an event dedicated to veterans. In Trump's absence, his rivals pummeled each other over health care and immigration in an earnest attempt to show they're the party's best Trump alternative.
Ted Cruz's campaign is aiming to show he will have the cash to go toe-to-toe with the real estate magnate. The Texas senator's campaign announced Friday it started the year with about $19 million in available money, giving him a financial edge over most of his Republican rivals.
Earlier, his campaign said he'd raised almost $47 million in all of last year, and this month he has continued to collect contributions at a healthy clip. All candidates must report their year-end fundraising and spending activities to federal regulators by Sunday night.
Cruz campaign manager Jeff Roe announced the cash-on-hand figure during a media breakfast hosted by Bloomberg Politics Friday morning.
Roe added that his organization's figures show there are 9,131 Iowans choosing between Cruz and Donald Trump, 2,807 people choosing between Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and 3,185 deciding between Cruz and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.
"We know the votes that we need, we know the names, their addresses, their emails," Roe said.
Meanwhile, Trump maintains a commanding lead in New Hampshire polls despite his decision not to follow traditional rules of campaigning in the first primary state. He holds large rallies rather than intimate town halls where voters can ask pointed questions and grab a photograph or handshake.
But most candidates were focused Friday on the first hurdle — Monday's Iowa caucuses. Trump's rivals, Cruz, Rubio, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, all planned a full day of campaigning in the state.
On the Democratic side, Sen. Bernie Sanders planned to keep the heat on Hillary Clinton, focusing his efforts on rousing a big turnout from his young supporters and other first-time caucus goers.
The battle was also playing out television, where a blitz of last-minute advertisements told the story.
Sanders has a new ad blasting Goldman Sachs — and by extension Clinton, who collected speaking fees from the giant Wall Street bank. A narrator in the 30-second spot says Goldman helped trigger the financial crisis. "How does Wall Street get away with it? Millions in campaign contributions and speaking fees."
Late-breaking commercial messages are even more pointed in the Republican contest.
Cruz began targeting Rubio in one ad, a sign the Texan sees his fellow senator as a strong competitor in Iowa. In recent polls, Cruz and Trump have led, but Rubio has ticked upward in support.
"Rubio betrayed our trust," the Cruz commercial says. It first shows a Rubio 2010 campaign video where the Floridian vows to fight efforts to give "blanket amnesty" to illegal immigrants and then footage of Rubio promoting a "Gang of Eight" Senate bill that would have provided a pathway to citizenship for some.
One more advertising twist: Guess who has been leading in Republican candidate money spent on Iowa media? It's the master of free publicity, Trump, advertising tracker Kantar Media's CMAG shows. In the four weeks beginning Jan. 5, Trump's campaign has spent $3.4 million, a million more than his next closest spending competitor, Rubio.