Posts Tagged Iowa

Trump and Clinton Scores Impressive Wins in South Carolina

Trump and ClintonDonald Trump scored a resounding victory in South Carolina’s Republican primary Saturday, deepening his hold on the GOP presidential field as the race headed into the South. “Let’s put this thing away,” he shouted to cheering supporters.

Out West, Hillary Clinton pulled out a crucial win over Bernie Sanders in Nevada’s Democratic caucuses, easing the rising anxieties of her backers. At a raucous victory rally in Las Vegas, she lavished praise on her supporters and declared, “This one is for you.”

The victories put Clinton and Trump in strong positions as the 2016 presidential election advanced toward the March 1 Super Tuesday contests, a delegate-rich voting bonanza. But South Carolina marked the end for Jeb Bush, the one-time Republican front-runner and member of a prominent political family, who withdrew from the race.

“I firmly believe the American people must entrust this office to someone who understands that whoever holds it is a servant, not the master,” Bush told supporters in an emotional speech.

South Carolina marked Trump’s second straight victory this one by 10 points and strengthened his unexpected claim on the GOP nomination. No Republican in recent times has won New Hampshire and South Carolina and then failed to win the nomination.

“There’s nothing easy about running for president,” Trump said at his victory rally. “It’s tough, it’s nasty, it’s mean, it’s vicious. It’s beautiful when you win it’s beautiful.”

Marco Rubio edged out Ted Cruz for second place, according to complete but unofficial results. Bush and others lagged far behind.

“This has become a three-person race,” Rubio declared.

Cruz harked back to his win in the leadoff Iowa caucuses as a sign he was best positioned to take down Trump. He urged conservatives to rally around his campaign, saying pointedly, “We are the only candidate who has beaten and can beat Donald Trump.”

For both parties, the 2016 election has laid bare voters’ anger with the political establishment. The public mood has upended the usual political order, giving Sanders and Trump openings while leaving more traditional candidates scrambling to find their footing.

Trump’s victory comes after a week in which he threatened to sue one rival, accused former President George W. Bush of lying about the Iraq war and even tussled with Pope Francis on immigration. His victory was another sign that the conventional rules of politics often don’t apply to the brash billionaire.

He was backed by nearly 4 in 10 of those who were angry at the federal government, and a third of those who felt betrayed by politicians in the Republican Party.

For Cruz, despite his confident words, South Carolina must have been something of a disappointment. The state was his first test of whether his expensive, sophisticated get-out-the-vote operation could overtake Trump in a Southern state, where the electorate seemed tailor-made for the Texas senator.

Florida’s Rubio used his top-tier finish to bill himself as the mainstream alternative to Trump and Cruz, candidates many GOP leaders believe are unelectable in November.

South Carolina was the final disappointment for Bush, who campaigned alongside members of his famous family, which remains popular in the state. Though he was once considered the front-runner for the GOP nomination, new fundraising reports out Saturday showed that donations to his super PAC had largely stalled.

Also in the mix was Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who had low expectations in South Carolina and was looking toward more moderate states that vote later in March. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson vowed to stay in the race, despite a single-digit showing.

The crowded Republican contest was a contrast to the head-to-head face-off among Democrats. Clinton has emerged as a favorite of those seeking an experienced political hand, while Sanders is attracting young voters and others drawn to his call of a political and economic revolution.

The Nevada results highlighted Clinton’s strength with black voters, a crucial Democratic electorate in the next contest in South Carolina, as well as several Super Tuesday states. The Hispanic vote was closely divided between Sanders and Clinton.

According to the entrance polls, Clinton was backed by a majority of women, college-educated voters, those with annual incomes over $100,000, moderates, voters aged 45 and older and non-white voters. Sanders did best with men, voters under 45 and those less affluent and educated.

The former secretary of state captured the backing of voters who said electability and experience were important. But in a continuing sign of her vulnerability, Sanders did best with voters looking for a candidate who is caring and honest.

Sanders congratulated Clinton on her victory, but then declared that “the wind is at our backs. We have the momentum.” With a vast network of small donors, Sanders has the financial resources to stay in the race for months.

Clinton’s win means she will pick up at least 19 of Nevada’s 35 delegates. She already holds a sizeable lead in the delegate count based largely on her support from superdelegates, the party leaders who can support the candidate of their choice, no matter the primaries and caucuses.

Trump won a majority of the delegates in South Carolina and he had a chance to win them all. With votes still being tabulated, he was projected to win at least 38 of the 50 at stake.

Democrats and Republicans will swap locations in the coming days. The GOP holds its caucus in Nevada on Tuesday, while Democrats face off in South Carolina on Feb. 27.

 

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Clinton and Sanders Clash Over Obama During Democratic Debate

Bernie and HIllary PBSHillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders battled for the crucial backing of black and Hispanic voters in Thursday night’s Democratic debate and clashed heatedly over their support for Barack Obama as the presidential race shifted toward states with more minority voters.

Clinton, who has cast herself as the rightful heir to Obama’s legacy, accused Sanders of diminishing the president’s record and short-changing his leadership.

“The kind of criticism I hear from Senator Sanders, I expect from Republicans. I do not expect it from someone seeking the Democratic nomination,” Clinton said in a sharp exchange at the close of the two-hour debate in Milwaukee. Her biting comments followed an interview in which Sanders suggested Obama hadn’t succeeded in closing the gap between Congress and the American people,  something Obama himself has acknowledged.

Sanders responded: “Madam Secretary, that is a low blow.” And he noted that Clinton was the only one on the stage who ran against Obama in the 2008 presidential race.

Long viewed as the overwhelming front-runner in the Democratic race, Clinton has been caught off guard by Sanders’ strength, particularly his visceral connection with Americans frustrated by the current political and economic systems. Clinton’s own campaign message has looked muddled compared to his ringing call for a “political revolution,” and her connections to Wall Street have given Sanders an easy way to link her to the systems his supporters want to overhaul.

Seeking to stem Sanders’ momentum, her campaign has argued that his appeal is mostly limited to the white, liberal voters who make up the Democratic electorate in Iowa and New Hampshire. Clinton’s team says that as the race turns now to Nevada, South Carolina and other more diverse states, her support from black and Hispanic voters will help propel her to the nomination.

Attempting Thursday night to boost his own support from minorities, Sanders peppered his typically economic-focused rhetoric with calls to reform a “broken criminal justice system” that incarcerates a disproportionate number of minorities.

“At the end of my first term, we will not have more people in jail than any other country,” he said.

In one of many moments of agreement between the candidates, Clinton concurred on a need to fix the criminal justice system, but cast her proposals for fighting racial inequality as broader than his.

“We also have to talk about jobs, education, housing, and other ways of helping communities,” said Clinton, who was endorsed earlier in the day by the political action committee of the Congressional Black Caucus.

The candidates both vowed to pursue comprehensive immigration reform, using the emotional issue to draw a contrast with Republicans who oppose allowing many of the millions of people in the United States illegally to stay.

“We have got to stand up to the Trumps of the world who are trying to divide us up,” said Sanders, referring to Republican front-runner Donald Trump, who has called for deporting everyone in the country illegally and constructing a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Both Clinton and Sanders also disagreed with raids authorized by President Obama to arrest and deport some people from Central America who recently came to the country illegally.

“We should be deporting criminals, not hardworking immigrant families who do the very best they can,” Clinton said.

Both candidates were restrained through much of their head-to-head contest, a contrast to their campaigns’ increasingly heated rhetoric. Clinton is mindful of a need to not turn off Sanders’ voters, particularly the young people that are supporting him in overwhelming numbers.

Still, the former secretary of state sought to discredit some of the proposals that have drawn young people to Sanders, including his call for free tuition at public colleges and universities and a plan for a government-run, single-payer health care system. Clinton said those proposals come with unrealistic price tags. And she accused Sanders of trying to shade the truth about what she said would be a 40 percent increase in the size of the federal government in order to implement his policies.

Sanders didn’t shy away from the notion that he wants to expand the size of government.

“In my view, the government of a democratic society has a moral responsibility to play a vital role in making sure all our people have a decent standard of living,” Sanders said.

Sanders has focused his campaign almost exclusively on a call to break up big Wall Street banks and overhaul the current campaign finance system that he says gives wealthy Americans undue influence. His campaign contends that his message will be well-received by minority voters, arguing that blacks and Hispanics have been hurt even more by what he calls a “rigged” economy.

Clinton was animated when discussing foreign policy, an area where her campaign believes Sanders is weak. She peppered her comments on the Islamic State and Russia with reminders of her four years serving as Obama’s secretary of state. Sanders challenged her judgment by raising her support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, a war he voted against.

In the debate’s early moments, Clinton found herself having to explain comments by surrogates, including former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, that suggested women had a responsibility to help elect the first female president.

“I’m not asking people to support me because I’m a woman,” Clinton said. “I’m asking people to support me because I think I’m the most qualified, experienced and ready person to be the president and the commander in chief.”

It was Sanders a democratic socialist who would be the first Jewish president if elected who tried to drape his candidacy in a bit of history.

“I think a Sanders victory would be of some historical accomplishment as well,” he said.

 

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Trump Crushes GOP Field – Sanders Delivers Massive Blow to Clinton in New Hampshire Primary

Trump & SandersFlamboyant businessman Donald Trump won by nearly 20 percentage points in New Hampshire’s Republican primary on Tuesday night, solidifying his status as the overwhelming favourite for the party nomination. Left-wing Vermont Sen. Trounced Hillary Clinton by about 20 points in a Democratic primary in which he had once trailed her by 40, establishing himself as legitimate contender.

The triumph of the insurgent outsiders was forecast by recent polls but unimaginable just a year ago. It represents a momentous affirmation of American anger at the political establishment and the state of the country.

“As a country we don’t win on trade, we don’t win with the military, we can’t beat ISIS. We don’t win with anything,” Trump said in a victory speech in which he called terrorists “animals” and suggested the real unemployment rate was 42 per cent. “We are going to start winning again, and we’re going to win so much, you are going to be so happy.”

“Together,” Sanders said in his speech, “we have sent a message that will echo from Wall Street to Washington, from Maine to California. And that is that the government of our great country belongs to all of the people, and not just a handful of wealthy campaign contributors and their Super PACs.”

Trump’s loss to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the Iowa caucuses last week raised questions about the devotion of his supporters and the preparedness of his campaign team. New Hampshire provided a resounding answer: he is for real, and he will be hard to beat. He holds big leads in the upcoming primaries in South Carolina and Nevada.

And his opposition is deeply divided. What happened in the race for second place is almost as helpful to Trump as his victory and almost as troubling to the Republican establishment hoping in vain for someone to take him down.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, widely viewed as the most electable Republican, had hoped to use a strong runner-up showing to position himself as the undisputed alternative to the polarizing Trump and Cruz. Instead, he finished a disastrous fifth, not only behind second-place Ohio Gov. John Kasich and likely behind former Florida governor Jeb Bush, two men he wanted to force out of the race, but also behind Cruz, whose religion-infused rhetoric appeared to be a poor fit for New Hampshire.

Sanders now confronts the challenge that could sink his campaign: earning support from people of colour, who favour Clinton by large margins. The states voting in the coming weeks are far more diverse than lily-white New Hampshire and Iowa, where Sanders battled last week to a near-tie.

Whatever happens next, New Hampshire proved that his message is far from the fringes. Sanders, a gruff 74-year-old facing a former secretary of state backed by almost the entire Democratic leadership, won a wide victory railing about the “rigged economy,” promising Canada-style health care, and calling for a “political revolution.”

“I’m just sick of the whole system. The whole thing is broken. The elections are fixed, and the American public is starting to catch on,” said Rick MacMillan, 60, an independent who voted for Sanders in the small town of Hopkinton.

Trump made a few concessions to normal political behaviour in response to his Iowa loss, scrambling to build a get-out-the-vote operation after months of neglect. But he did not change his unorthodox style or an inflammatory race-baiting platform that includes a ban on Muslims entering the country, a giant wall on the Mexican border, and the authorized torture of terrorists.

“This country don’t need another lawyer,” said retired police officer Bob Arsenault, 64, after he voted for Trump in Hopkinton. “He tells you how he feels. I’m a good ol’ Frenchman. I’ll tell you how I feel.”

Kasich, running as a cheery compassionate conservative, proved that there is still a substantial Republican constituency for civility and governing experience. But he will be hard-pressed to repeat his success elsewhere. While he held some 100 town hall meetings in New Hampshire, he invested only barely in other states.

Bush’s Super PAC has spent tens of millions of dollars supporting his candidacy, so third or fourth place is not especially impressive. If he had finished fifth or worse, though, he would have faced pressure to quit. He can now soldier on to South Carolina, whose most prominent legislator, Lindsey Graham, has already endorsed him.

The three candidates who fared worse than Rubio, former neurosurgeon Ben Carson, former HP chief executive Carly Fiorina and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie might all drop out. If this was indeed Christie’s last stand, it was consequential. His Saturday debate attack on Rubio as a speech-memorizing lightweight sent Rubio into a panicked recitation of a memorized speech, a comical gaffe that appeared to cripple him in the final days of the race.

New Hampshire, a state of 1.3 million, has always been a unique political environment, largely moderate but with a rebellious streak. More than 40 per cent of voters identify as independent, and they often decide at the final moment which party’s primary to join. On Tuesday, it was not hard to find voters choosing between Sanders and Trump.

 

 

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Rubio Fumbles, Governors Shine, Trump Untouched

ABC NewsThere have been no higher stakes on a Republican debate stage in the 2016 campaign for president than there were Saturday night.

Seven GOP Republican hopefuls faced off just three days before a make-or-break New Hampshire primary that some of them are not likely to survive.

Coming off a strong Iowa finish, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio tripped up early under attack from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who are jockeying for the same Republican voters.

At the same time, the candidates on the still-crowded stage seemed unwilling to mix it up with Donald Trump, the national front-runner for months who needs a win in New Hampshire on Tuesday to avoid starting the 2016 race with two consecutive losses.

And then there was Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the champion college debater who shared a deeply personal moment during an otherwise forgettable night while trying to build on his victory in the Iowa caucuses.

Rubio experienced his worst moment in a presidential debate at the worst time, stumbling badly when forced to answer the fundamental question posed by rivals of his candidacy: whether he has the experience necessary to lead the nation.

As a first-term senator with no executive experience, Rubio’s resume is remarkably similar to Barack Obama before he became president. Rubio tried to turn the question around by charging that Obama “knows exactly what he’s doing” by “undertaking a systematic effort to change this country.”

The answer was quickly challenged by Christie: “I like Marco Rubio, and he’s a smart person and a good guy, but he simply does not have the experience to be president of the United States.”

A clearly rattled Rubio responded by delivering the same line about Obama not once, but twice. And Christie made sure New Hampshire voters knew it: “There it is. The memorized 25-second speech. There it is, everybody.”

It was a cringe-worthy moment for Rubio three days before a New Hampshire contest in which he hopes to knock Christie, Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich from the race. Even if it doesn’t significantly change the contest in New Hampshire, the moment raises questions about Rubio’s readiness to take on Democrat Hillary Clinton in a general election debate.

He is barely registering in recent preference polls, but the New Jersey governor was the toughest candidate on the debate stage Saturday night. And that’s no small feat with the tough-talking Trump at center stage.

At seemingly every turn, Christie zeroed in on Rubio, pelting him with zingers about his inexperience and record in Washington. Calling out Rubio on his missed votes in the Senate, Christie charged, “That’s not leadership. That’s truancy.”

And when Rubio didn’t answer a moderator’s question about why he backpedaled on an immigration proposal he’d helped write when it appeared to become politically unpopular, Christie called him out.

“The question was, did he fight for his legislation. It’s abundantly clear that it he didn’t.” Then he twisted the knife: “That’s not what leadership is. That’s what Congress is.”

It was a performance Christie badly needed as he teeters on the edge of irrelevancy in the crowded Republican contest. Is it too little too late to rescue his campaign?

Trump’s rivals barely laid a glove on the frequent New Hampshire poll leader.

The decision to withhold fire was evident right from the start, when Cruz declined to repeat his assertion this week that Trump didn’t have the temperament to be commander in chief. Cruz dodged, saying everyone on the stage would be better leader of the U.S. military than Obama and Democratic contenders Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

Pressed by a moderator whether he stood by his words that Trump was too volatile to be president, Cruz said simply, “I think that is an assessment the voters are going to make.” Trump noted that Cruz refused to answer the question.

Bush was the only one who took it directly to Trump. After the billionaire real-estate developer defended the use of eminent domain as a necessary tool of government, Bush said the businessman was “downright wrong” when his company tried to use eminent domain to build an Atlantic City casino.

Trump scoffed, saying Bush “wants to be a tough guy.”

Bush fired back, “How tough is it to take property from an elderly woman?”

It was the only moment in which Trump flashed any of the rhetorical jabs he’s become known for on Twitter. For the most part, Trump was content to lay back and let those chasing him in the preference polls fight amongst themselves.

The champion college debater wasn’t much of a factor after a rough start to the debate, when he was asked about Trump’s temperament and allegations his campaign team engaged in “deceitful behavior” by suggesting in the moments before the Iowa caucuses started that retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson was leaving the race.

“When this transpired, I apologized to him then and I do so now,” Cruz said. “Ben, I’m sorry.”

Cruz returned to prominence when asked about substance abuse, and gave an answer that will be hard for some voters to forget.

The Texas senator shared the deeply personal story of his sister’s overdose death. He told New Hampshire voters, and a national television audience, that he and his father pulled his older sister out of a crack house. They pleaded with her to straighten out for the good of her son. But she didn’t listen.

“She died,” Cruz said.

It was a very human moment for a candidate sometimes criticized for not being likable.

And it was in line with his tone all night long, as he consistently rose above the mud-slinging, despite his near-daily attacks on his rivals on the campaign trail.

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Clinton and Sanders in Heated New Hampshire Debate

APTOPIX DEM 2016 DebateIt was the sharpest, most caustic debate yet for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

A fiery Clinton went after Sanders for his suggestions that she is a captive of Wall Street interests, calling on him to end a “very artful smear that you and your campaign are carrying out.”

Sanders didn’t back down. He kept coming back to the millions that Clinton has collected from financial interests in speaking fees and campaign contributions over the decades.

“I am very proud to be the only candidate up here who does not have a super PAC, who’s not raising huge sums from Wall Street and special interests,” he said.

Five days before New Hampshire votes in the nation’s first primary, Clinton and Sanders head back to the campaign trail Friday. Thursday night’s intensifying jabs and pokes gave voters something to talk about. And they were fresh evidence of how the race for the nomination, once considered a sure bet for Clinton, has tightened in recent weeks.

Another sign of the new dynamic: Clinton reported that her campaign had raised $15 million in January, $5 million less than Sanders and the first time she’s been outraised by her opponent. Her finance director called the numbers “a very loud wake-up call.”

Sanders held the former secretary of state to a whisper-thin margin of victory in Iowa’s leadoff caucuses, and polls show he has a big lead in New Hampshire. Clinton, who beat Barack Obama in New Hampshire eight years ago, is determined to at least narrow the gap before Tuesday’s vote. Her prospects are much stronger in primaries and caucuses after New Hampshire, as the race moves on to states with more diverse electorates that are to her advantage.

The increasingly contentious Democratic race was the latest twist in an election campaign that, until recently, had been dominated by the crowded and cacophonous field of Republicans, spread all across New Hampshire.

Donald Trump, who finished second among Republicans in Iowa, stepped up the pace of his campaign and acknowledged Thursday he should have had a stronger ground operation in Iowa.

Jeb Bush, his campaign lagging, brought in Mom former first lady Barbara Bush who praised him as “decent and honest and everything we need in a president.”

In their debate, Clinton and Sanders argued over ideas, over tactics and over who has the liberal credentials to deliver on an agenda of better access to health care, more affordable college, fighting income inequality and more.

It was Clinton who was the main aggressor, saying Sanders could never achieve his ambitious and costly proposals. Then she took after the Vermont senator for his efforts to cast her as beholden to Wall Street interests, saying: “I really don’t think these kinds of attacks by insinuation are worthy of you. And enough is enough.”

Sanders persisted with his suggestions that Clinton’s loyalties were colored by a reliance on big corporate donors.

“Secretary Clinton does represent the establishment,” he said. “I represent, I hope, ordinary Americans.”

Where Clinton aimed considerable criticism at Sanders, the Vermont senator focused much of his fire on what he says is a political system rigged against ordinary Americans. He spoke of Wall Street executives who destroyed the economy and walked away with no criminal record.

“That is what power is about, that is what corruption is about,” he said.

Clinton, unwilling to cede the issue to Sanders, insisted that her regulatory policies would be tougher on Wall Street than his.

“I’ve got their number on all that,” she said of “the Wall Street guys.”

Asked if she would release transcripts of her paid speeches to Wall Street interests and others, Clinton was noncommittal “I’ll look into it.” She had struggled a day earlier to explain why she accepted $675,000 for three speeches from Goldman Sachs.

Clinton called Sanders’ sweeping proposals on health care and education “just not achievable,” while Sanders countered that Clinton was willing to settle for less than Americans deserve.

On foreign policy, Sanders renewed his criticism of Clinton for her vote as a senator to authorize the war in Iraq, a vote she later said was a mistake.

Clinton retorted: “A vote in 2002 is not a plan to defeat ISIS. We have to look at the threats that we face right now.”

Sanders allowed that while Clinton had been secretary of state, “experience is not the only point. Judgment is.”

On a nagging issue, Clinton was asked if she was sure nothing problematic would come of the ongoing investigation into her use of a private email account and server to handle official messages when she was secretary of state, some of them later classified as top secret.

“I am 100 percent confident,” she said.

When the fireworks had died out at the end of two hours, the two candidates had some conciliatory words for one another, with Sanders declaring, “On our worst days, I think it is fair to say, we are 100 times better than any Republican candidate.”

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Final poll shows tight races ahead of Iowa caucuses

Iowa caucusesThe last major preference poll before Monday’s Iowa caucuses showed a change at the top of the GOP race.

The Iowa Poll, published Saturday by The Des Moines Register and Bloomberg, said Republican real estate mogul Donald Trump has the support of 28 perfect of likely caucus goers, with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz at 23 percent and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio at 15 percent.

It’s the first time Trump has led this poll since August, pollsters said. Trump’s support has risen by six points since early January, and 71 percent of his supporters say their minds are made up.

The poll was taken beginning the day after Trump announced he would skip last week’s GOP debate. It’s not a decision that seems likely to hurt him 46 percent of likely caucus goers said they didn’t care and 24 percent approved of his decision. Only 29 percent didn’t approve.

Should voters have second thoughts, Cruz could benefit, he leads the group who could change their minds, albeit by a small margin, over Trump and Marco Rubio. A plurality of Ben Carson’s voters chose Cruz second.

One troubling sign for Cruz, however, is that his favorability, though still quite high, at 65 percent, has dropped 11 percentage points since early January.

On the Democratic side, the survey finds former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton with 45 percent support to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 42 percent.

Both candidates see an increase in support, with Clinton up by three percentage points since early January and Sanders up by two. Clinton leads among voters who say they are certain to caucus, and Sanders has an edge with voters who said they would probably caucus.

Three percent of likely Democratic caucus goers chose Martin O’Malley, which shows a drop of a percentage point since January.

The poll of 602 likely Republican caucus-goers and 602 likely Democratic caucus-goers was taken Tuesday to Friday and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The candidates and their surrogates crisscrossed state Saturday in a frenzied weekend prelude to the first presidential contest of the 2016 race which has taken an unexpected turn with the emergence of outsider candidates who have challenged the establishment in both parties.

Iowa offers only a small contingent of the delegates who will determine the nominees at each party’s national convention in July. But Monday’s caucuses will provide a test of whether the large enthusiastic crowds turning out at rallies for Trump and Sanders will turn into actual votes. The caucuses should also help winnow out the crowded Republican field and provide momentum heading into the Feb. 9 New Hampshire primary.

 

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Cruz Campaign Shift Focus from Trump to Rubio to Hold Off Late Surge

marco rubio and Ted cruz in iowaAfter weeks of decreeing that he had entered a two-man race with Donald Trump in the Iowa caucus, Sen. Ted Cruz is quickly shifting focus to an opponent he thought he once vanquished: Sen. Marco Rubio.

Just two days before voters go to the polls, in a new Iowa television advertisement, Cruz calls Rubio “the Republican Obama,” a sign that Cruz’s campaign could be worried the Florida senator is surging.

The Texas senator, under siege by much of the GOP field, has moved nearly all of his negative ads away from Trump, who sits in a modest first place according to Iowa recent polls and toward Rubio.

“They call Ted Cruz Obama’s nemesis,” the ad begins, which first aired on Friday and was observed by CMAG/Kantar Media, a company that tracks political advertising. “Marco Rubio’s different, the Republican Obama who championed Obama’s amnesty and led the Gang of Eight,” a reference to failed immigration legislation in 2013 that would have provided a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

The spot also airs a video of Rubio in which he appears to support a cap-and-trade program, a plan to tax carbon emissions.

“Tax hikes. Amnesty. The Republican Obama,” the message concludes.

Cruz’s campaign and super PACs have released a flurry of similar negative spots on Rubio shortly before the caucus, most of which dredge up Rubio’s support for the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill.

The two fought for much of November and December, often about immigration. But after Cruz jumped ahead in many polls, he said the establishment was “abandoning” the back-and-forth with Rubio and then started to unload on Trump.

Now, as hours count down in Iowa, the Cruz campaign appears to be calling an audible play, refocusing its attention on an old target in order to stem a surge from a third-place Rubio rather than investing ad money to take down Trump.

Cruz’s team maintains that Rubio poses no immediate political threat. Yet the torrent of last-minute advertising could undercut Cruz’s persistent claim that the contest is a two-man race between him and Trump.

Cruz campaign manager Jeff Roe said Friday that the campaign estimates 2,387 voters are deciding between Cruz and Rubio in Iowa, about a quarter of the total number they think are stuck between Cruz and Trump.

“He’s not worried about Rubio beating him in Iowa. But they’re looking now to the future: Does Rubio come out of Iowa strong enough to get through South Carolina and actually keep himself going?” said Erick Erickson, a conservative personality in close touch with the Cruz team. “And I think that’s got to be a real concern from the Cruz campaign.”

Other signs emerged Friday that Cruz’s two-horse race theory is slipping away. After the debate in Des Moines on Thursday, Cruz’s aides crowed about how Rubio was forced to defend his immigration record, a common post-debate boast for team Cruz early in the campaign, but less so recently.

Cruz’s campaign also opened another front in the war against Rubio, dubbing him “Mandate Marco” for his positions on cap-and-trade. They were eager to downplay late momentum by Rubio in the Hawkeye State, telling reporters that he would finish in a weak third place at best even as the candidate sharpened his rhetoric.

“If you look in particular at President Obama’s executive amnesty,” Cruz said Friday morning in Ringsted, “Marco Rubio’s gone on Univision and said in Spanish, ‘no, no, no, no, no, I wouldn’t rescind amnesty.'”

But Rubio has inched up in recent Iowa polls, and the third-place finish that he is positioned for now looks more secure.

The state’s popular junior senator, Joni Ernst, appeared on stage with Rubio and praised him, a tacit blessing, but not necessarily an endorsement, and its largest newspaper, The Des Moines Register, did endorse him. Its headline on Friday ‘Rough Night for Cruz,’ did little to cement the perception of a two-man race.

A cavalry of outside groups is also taking aim at Rubio. One super PAC, Stand for Truth, just days ago reassigned $700,000 in television time that it planned to use against Rubio toward Trump. But then late Friday, a new Stand for Truth anti-Rubio video surfaced.

Meanwhile, Keep the Promise, the other main super PAC supporting Cruz, on Thursday and Friday also unveiled new advertisements bashing Rubio. It had, in recent days, been signaling that it would begin a scorched-earth campaign to take down Trump with a series of tough advertisements, and it appears to be maintaining a dual focus, releasing anti-Trump and anti-Rubio spots consecutively late this week.

On Monday, both the super PACs and the campaign had decided that Trump and the “New York values” he embodies was the target of the paid media campaign. Now, that has suddenly changed.

Joe Pounder, a Rubio spokesman, said that Rubio’s growing support explained the late advertising shift.

“Instead of campaigning on his record, Senator Cruz is pumping millions into negative and false attack ads days before the caucus because he knows Marco is gaining momentum,” Pounder said. “Considering that he stood with Barack Obama just months ago to weaken our intelligence programs, this ad is another in a litany of examples of Ted Cruz desperately saying … anything to try to win an election.”

Speaking at a campaign event in Dubuque, Iowa, early Friday evening, Rubio himself hit back.

“He’s taken 100% of his advertising in the last three days and he’s using it to attack me,” Rubio said, harkening back to his first Senate run, “mostly using the same ads my liberal opponent used to attack me in 2009, but it’s fine.”

 

 

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