NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Three of the five candidates for the Republican presidential nomination campaigned in Tennessee on Friday, with the remaining two planning rallies in the state before voters go to the polls on Super Tuesday next week.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz made two appearances Friday in Nashville in which he heavily criticized front-runner Donald Trump, who plans a big rally outside Memphis on Saturday.
Cruz said Trump is "not the right candidate" to take on Hillary Clinton, who he predicted will win the Democratic nomination. Clinton is planning a Nashville rally on Sunday.
"Donald Trump, like Hillary Clinton, is a rich New York liberal," Cruz said.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who gained Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam's endorsement this week, plans a rally in Knoxville on Monday morning.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich held a town hall meeting in Memphis on Friday evening. He will be in Nashville and Knoxville on Saturday.
Kasich told reporters afterward that he was "a little bit surprised" by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's endorsement of Donald Trump on Friday. Kasich said he asked for Christie's support but Christie "just went another way."
"I asked him to help me," Kasich said. "You don't just go to somebody who just dropped out of a race and try to pressure them ... you couldn't pressure Chris Christie into anything anyway."
Kasich added: "It's just the way life is. It's OK."
He said Christie is a friend of his and always will be, and that his endorsement of Trump will not affect his campaign moving forward.
Cruz said he was not impressed by Christie's endorsement of Trump, calling it "troubling news" for Rubio's campaign, which had been courting the former presidential candidate after he dropped out earlier this month.
Cruz and retired brain surgeon Ben Carson spoke at a National Religious Broadcasters conference, where they both touted their evangelical credentials. Carson stressed that he doesn't plan to drop out despite a string of poor results.
"The same people who told me not to run are the people saying 'get out,'" Carson said. "And people who said to run are saying 'stay there.'"
Cruz is counting on a strong showing in the 11 states holding GOP primaries on Tuesday, including his home state of Texas that he called the "crown jewel of Super Tuesday."
"Anyone who wants to win the nomination has to win a state somewhere" said Cruz, who won the Iowa caucus but has seen Trump win convincingly in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.
At the Cruz rally in downtown Nashville on Friday, supporters agreed with Cruz's criticism of Trump.
"I don't think Donald Trump is a person of true character," said Lisa Merrell of Thompson's Station, who brought three of her children to the event. "I don't think he's a person who consistently stands on one viewpoint."
Sylicia Fuqua, a Cruz supporter from Jackson, said she feels like she's been betrayed by other Republicans who have made big promises when they ran for office, but didn't deliver once they made it to Washington. She said Cruz is different.
"I've paid attention to what he's done in Washington, and he didn't change his mind or who he was when he got there like the rest of them have," she said. "As a Christian and a Southerner, his values are the same as my values."
But Fuqua said she worries that it will be hard for Cruz to overcome Trump's appeal to voters' emotions, even if she considers them to be short on substance.
"If it was just him, and not three other people, he'd be beating him," she said. "But I don't how he overcomes that."