Trump returns to GOP debate, where Rubio could face attacks

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MANCHESTER, New Hampshire — An aggrieved Donald Trump returns to the debate stage Saturday night hoping to find his way into the winner’s circle in New Hampshire, while a rising Marco Rubio looks to fend off an onslaught of attacks from his rivals.

The debate comes three days before New Hampshire’s primary, a contest that will likely determine whether some Republican candidates for president in an already shrinking field will be forced to abandon their White House hopes.

For Trump, anything short of a win in New Hampshire would be a blow to his White House bid.

Rubio’s third-place finish in Iowa gave him the edge in the crowded field of candidates viewed as more mainstream alternatives to the bombastic Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the fiery conservative who won the caucuses.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says Donald Trump will be welcomed back to the debate stage “with open arms.”

At a campaign rally in Bedford Saturday, Christie jokingly thanked the crowd and said that he was thrilled that “none of you people made enough fun of Donald Trump to make him not come tonight.”

Christie is marking his 70th day in New Hampshire and continued his criticism of Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz as first-term senators who aren’t ready to be president.

He says debate viewers will see a clear difference between those who are prepared to lead and those who are just continuing to talk.

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush says he will continue his campaign no matter the outcome of Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary.

Bush said in an interview with CNN on his campaign bus Saturday that the presidential race is just getting started and that he’s “in it for the long haul.”

Bush says every election is different but that none are over after the first primary.

He will join fellow Republican candidates for a debate Saturday night at Saint Anselm College in Manchester.