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Tales From the Trail: Christie Makes his Independent Push; Rubio Praises Haley

The state of New Hampshire and independent voters come hand-in-hand...
A campaign volunteer is helped by a fire department member to set up a sign before the arrival of Republican presidential candidate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for a town hall style campaign stop, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016, at Pinardville Fire Station in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)John Minchillo / AP

Want to know what the NBC News Embeds saw? Follow their daily journey to the inside of the 2016 presidential campaign here:

The power of New Hampshire’s ‘undeclared voters’

GOFFSTOWN, N.H. – The state of New Hampshire and independent voters come hand-in-hand. Independent voters -- or “undeclared voters” as they are technically called -- make up about 40 percent of the state’s electorate and play an increasingly prominent role in the first-in-the-nation primary.

At a town hall at a local firehouse on Wednesday morning, Chris Christie fielded multiple questions from self-identified independent voters, and heard from one woman who told him she’s still undecided. She considers herself fiscally conservative, but more liberal on social issues.

While explaining that voters deserve to know where he stands on some of those issues, he launched into a longer answer about working with lawmakers and constituents in a blue state with opposing opinions, while maintaining what he refers to as a degree of civility.

“I think that the issue for most people is the issue of tolerance,” Christie said. “How do you speak about these things and how do you speak to people who disagree with you?” Christie noted he comes from an “overwhelmingly pro-choice state but they elected me twice” because he feels New Jersey voters understood “he’s tolerant, he understands.”

Now, Christie threw in his own explanation for why his approval ratings have dropped since his last election…

“People of New Jersey, I think they have been happy with me over time,” Christie said. “They are not happy with me now cause I’m running for president, that’s OK. Your current employer is never happy when you’re looking for a new job.”

-- Kailani Koenig covering the New Hampshire primary

Jeb Bush: ‘Big brothers are still big brothers’

ANKEY, Iowa—Jeb Bush has battled his older brother/former president’s shadow from the start of this campaign, and on Tuesday he handed out some brotherly advice to some young Iowans.

"You know, big brothers always have to defer once in a while, but ultimately, big brothers are still big brothers, you know what I mean?" he said.

That was Bush’s advice when he greeted two brothers after Tuesday night’s town hall event where the younger of the two was clearly in control.

The little brother in this case was Conrad, who asked the governor a question about the federal deficit while his brother stood by.

"Conrad, what's your position on the deficit and the debt?" Bush asked the youngster in return.

"Well, I think we just need to save up money and just give it to the people we need, we need to pay, I think that's what we should do," the boy said.

"That's a coherent position, I'd stick with it," the governor told him.

Earlier in the day, Bush told the Des Moines Register Editorial Board that his own brother might join him on the campaign trail in the weeks ahead “if it fits his schedule” and that the campaign is “working on that right now.”

-- Jordan Frasier covering the Bush campaign in Iowa

Trump’s wants a farm in Iowa -- maybe

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- Donald Trump loves Iowa so much he's thinking about buying a farm there -- or not.

"I think I'm going to buy a farm and settle down over here," he told a gym full of people here Tuesday night. The idea drew applause from the 1,000-person crowd.

Trump said it would have to be a "medium sized farm" because he is unsure "if I want to work that hard."

One attendee cried out that he'd work it for Trump, but went unnoticed by the man behind the podium who has been known to interact with his crowds, and even sometimes pull people on stage.

"I think I'm going to buy a farm and settle down over here."

But not everything in Iowa is coming up roses for Trump, who's battling with Ted Cruz for first place in the Hawkeye State. Trump knows this full well, and reminded the crowd that Iowa "is the only place that I'm like doing, let's say even. I'm not exactly thrilled." And the fate of that farm could hang in the balance if Iowans don't turn it around.

"Come on Iowa, will you get with it please?" Trump asked, admitting "I'm a little upset."

Then he reconsidered that maybe "I won't buy that farm here, I'll go someplace else."

-- Ali Vitali covering the Trump campaign

Rubio praises Haley in her home state

MOUNT PLEASANT, SC — Marco Rubio on Wednesday praised South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley for her GOP response to the State of the Union, telling the crowd at a campaign event in her home state that "she did a great job."

But more than the content of her speech, he jokingly said he was "most personally impressed" that "she did it without a single sip of water."

The crowd at his pre-debate Mount Pleasant rally laughed at a joke that's become a trademark of his since his infamous dry-mouth moment after the 2013 State of the Union. Then, Rubio was tapped as the rising GOP star to respond to Obama's speech. But more than the content of his response, America reacted to — and has remembered — a desperate grasp he took, mid-speech, for a small bottle of water sitting off-camera.

Rubio has since made a joke out of it, often remarking on the ubiquitous glass or bottle of water he keeps nearby while he's stumping on the trail. And on Wednesday, in offering props to Haley for her ability to stay hydrated, he again sought to show that the water incident was for him, well, just water off a duck's back.

-- Alex Jaffe following the Rubio campaign in South Carolina.

The ‘Trump In the Cold Club’

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- Despite his high poll numbers, one of the questions that continues to plague Donald Trump’s campaign is whether his supporters will turn out on a cold and icy Iowa night to caucus for him on February 1.

Well, here on Tuesday night they did – and roughly 50 people were turned away because the fire marshal deemed the gym at Northern Iowa University at capacity.

The temperature was zero degrees at the start of the 6 p.m. event.

Dozens left out in the cold continued to brace the temperatures in the hopes of persuading the Secret Service to let them in.

“We’re the ‘Trump In The Cold Club!’” exclaimed Waterloo resident Buzz Anderson, holding a photo of Trump and him together from last year.

Five NIU students jumped right into the conversation.

“It’s NIU’s fault for putting him in too small of a building!” added Raelyn Meling, a freshman.

About a dozen remained, standing outside in the bitter cold before finally walking away. John Hulsizer, the campaign’s adviser in the northeastern part of the state, apologized to the group profusely, the group of supporters said.

Despite the cold and being turned away from seeing Trump himself, the group said they are committed to caucusing for the real estate mogul.

Trump supporters won’t turn out on a cold night? These Iowans did – and they say they’ll be back on Feb. 1.

-- Vaughn Hillyard covering the Iowa caucuses