Posts Tagged Ted Cruz

Hillary Clinton Assumes Control After Dominant South Carolina Victory over Bernie Sanders

HIllary South CarolinaHillary Clinton is now in firm command of the Democratic race for president after a loud statement of a victory in South Carolina.

Clinton leaves the state with a growing delegate lead that she is increasingly unlikely to ever surrender. Bernie Sanders leaves with neither momentum nor math on his side, and without a clear path to capturing the nomination.

“Tomorrow, this campaign goes national,” Clinton said tonight in her victory speech.

Indeed, she’s better positioned for a national campaign. She also has a regional advantage that’s likely to become evident on Super Tuesday, where seven of the 11 states with Democratic contests are in the South.

The first four contests give Clinton three wins and one lopsided loss. They also answer some of the broadest questions about her ability to turn out Barack Obama’s old base answers that are starting to break in Clinton’s favor.

African-American voters constituted a larger share of the electorate in South Carolina this year than they did in 2008, despite the obvious historic nature of Obama’s candidacy. Clinton carried black voters by more than 70 percentage points on Saturday, a week after winning African-Americans in Nevada by north of 50 points.

Just days before the Super Tuesday “SEC” Democratic contents, Hillary Clinton holds at least a 20-point lead in three of the key states Georgia, Texas, and Virginia. Majorities of Democratic primary voters in these states have made up their minds as to whom to vote for.

As the race shifts to the South, the Democratic contest will now feature states with larger percentages of African American voters especially in Georgia, where they made up just over half of those voting in the Democratic primary in 2008. This year, while white voters are somewhat divided between Clinton and rival Bernie Sanders in these three states, three in four black voters are supporting Clinton.

Sanders maintains his a large lead among voters under thirty, but Clinton is beating him among voters between 30 and 44 in all three states, an age group that Sanders won easily in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada. Clinton has an even larger lead among voters 45 and older. Men are divided between the two candidates, but Clinton has a strong lead among women.

Most voters think both candidates understand people like them, but they have more confidence in Sanders when it comes to favouring regular people over big donors, and Sanders is generally seen as the more principled candidate. Honesty is an even bigger concern when it comes to Hillary Clinton: though two-thirds of Democratic voters say Sanders is honest, just over a third of voters say the same for Clinton. Even among black voters, less than half describe her as honest.

But Clinton is generally seen as more qualified to be president — particularly in Georgia, where less than half of Democratic voters view Sanders as qualified. As a result, Clinton is seen as better able to handle a number of issues, including improving race relations in America, gun policy, being commander-in-chief, health care, and standing up on to a Republican Congress. In Texas and Virginia, Sanders does better on fixing income inequality, but in Georgia with its higher proportion of black voters Clinton wins on this issue as well.

Clinton and Sanders supporters have different priorities: most Clinton supporters are backing her because they think she gives the Democrats a good chance to win in November, while Sanders supporters are more concerned with accomplishing a progressive agenda. Clinton supporters tend to want to continue the policies of Barack Obama, while Sanders supporters overwhelmingly want to switch to more progressive policies than that of the current administration.

Looking ahead to the general election, Clinton may have some trouble garnering the enthusiasm of Sanders supporters should she win the nomination. Sanders supporters are more likely than Clinton supporters to say the Democratic Party doesn’t represent them, and less than half of Sanders supporters are even somewhat enthusiastic about Hillary Clinton, though most would still vote for her.

 

 

 

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Cruz and Rubio Plot Trump Downfall in CNN GOP Presidential Debate

marco rubio and Ted cruz in iowaOutside Challenger Donald Trump’s grasp on the Republican presidential nomination growing increasingly stronger, the billionaire businessman’s rivals get one more chance to challenge the GOP front-runner on the debate stage before next week’s slate of Super Tuesday contests.

The situation is likely more dire for the other GOP candidates than they’d like voters to believe. Yet Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have so far shown little willingness to take on the former reality television star when the national spotlight shines brightest.

That could change Thursday night in Houston.

“The vast and overwhelming majority of Republicans do not want Donald Trump to be our nominee,” Rubio told NBC, suggesting that Trump is winning only because the other candidates are splitting up the majority of the electorate.

For his part, the New York billionaire predicted the relative civility between Rubio and himself is about to disappear. The ninth Republican debate of the presidential campaign will take place just a few days before 11 states hold GOP elections that will either cement Trump’s dominance, or let his rivals slow his march to his party’s presidential nomination.

Both Cruz and Rubio know full-well that the strategy of ignoring the front-runner is not working. How they tackle Trump remains to be seen, to date, Trump has proved largely immune to traditional political attacks, something he reveled in on Wednesday. “I seem to have a very good track record when to do go after me,” the New York real estate mogul told NBC.

The task is made more complicated by the shift from single-state campaigns to a new phase of the race, where the candidates must compete across several states at the same time. Next Tuesday features voting in a mix of states that include Texas, Georgia, Arkansas, Massachusetts and Virginia, with more to come in the weeks after.

Trump won Nevada’s presidential caucuses on Tuesday with more than 45 percent of the vote, scoring his third consecutive primary victory in dominant fashion. Rubio edged out Cruz for runner-up for the second consecutive race, with Ohio Gov. John Kasich and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson far off the pace.

As they seek to become the Trump alternative, Cruz and Rubio have significant liabilities of their own.

Cruz comes into the debate at the weakest point of his presidential campaign after a staff shakeup and three consecutive third-place finishes.

The Texas senator ousted a senior aide on Monday after the aide promoted an inaccurate news report that Rubio had condemned the Bible during a chance encounter with Cruz’s father. The aide’s dismissal helps legitimize Trump and Rubio charges that Cruz has been running an unethical campaign.

Even while vulnerable, Cruz signaled an aggressive stance heading into the debate. He lashed out at Trump and Rubio as “Washington dealmakers” while talking to reporters in Houston on Wednesday. Rubio, Cruz said, had worked with Democrats to craft an immigration overhaul, while Trump has given money to Democrats and backed their priorities at times in recent years.

“I don’t think the people of Texas and I don’t think the people of this country want another Washington dealmaker to go and surrender more to the Democrats, giving in to the failed liberal agenda,” Cruz said.

Rubio, meanwhile, is just one debate removed from a primetime meltdown. The Florida senator repeated himself several times in a New Hampshire debate less than three weeks ago, triggering what he now calls “the New Hampshire disappointment.” He avoided a similar mistake in the subsequent debate, but critics in both parties will be laser-focused on anything that suggests the 44-year-old legislator isn’t sufficiently prepared to move into the White House.

But Rubio, who has been reluctant to publicly talk about Trump by name, stepped up his aggressiveness Wednesday.

In an appearance in Houston, he criticized Trump for what Rubio said was a failure to strongly oppose the federal health care law derided by critics as “Obamacare.”

The Florida senator also said “the front-runner in this race, Donald Trump, has said he’s not going to take sides on Israel versus the Palestinians because he wants to be an honest broker.”

Rubio said there was no such thing “because the Palestinian Authority, which has strong links to terror, they teach little kids, 5-year-olds, that it’s a glorious thing to kill Jews.” He also named Trump in accusing him of thinking “parts of Obamacare are pretty good” drawing boos.

Emboldened by the recent departure of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush from the race, Rubio has fresh momentum after two consecutive second-place finishes. His team is convinced they must dispatch with Cruz before turning their full attention to taking down Trump.

Rubio also said that he’d respond to Trump and Cruz if attacked in Thursday’s debate, but that, “I didn’t run for office to tear up other Republicans.”

And after eight debates, it’s unclear what sort of attacks could work against Trump. As his resume would suggest, he’s proven to be a master showman on primetime television.

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Jeb Finally Embraces Bush Name in Last-Ditch Bid to Save Campaign

JebGeorge W. Bush won a bruising South Carolina presidential primary on his way to the Oval Office, as his father did before him.

Now it’s his brother’s turn, and for Jeb Bush, the most consequential foreign policy decisions of his brother’s tenure are suddenly front-and-center in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination thanks to Donald Trump.

The 43rd president already had announced plans to campaign for his younger brother Monday in South Carolina, marking his most direct entry into the 2016 race to date, when Trump, the GOP front-runner, used the final debate before the state’s Feb. 20 primary as an opportunity to excoriate George W. Bush’s performance as commander in chief.

The former president, Trump said, ignored “the advice of his CIA” and “destabilized the Middle East” by invading Iraq on dubious claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

“I want to tell you: They lied,” Trump said. “They said there were weapons of mass destruction. … And they knew there were none.”

Trump dismissed Jeb Bush’s suggestion that George W. Bush built a “security apparatus to keep us safe” after the 9/11 attacks.

“The World Trade Center came down during your brother’s reign,” Trump said, adding: “That’s not keeping us safe.”

The onslaught “blood sport” for Trump, Jeb said was the latest example of the billionaire businessman’s penchant for mocking his rival as a weak, privileged instrument of the Republican Party establishment.

But the exchange also highlighted the former Florida governor’s embrace of his family name as he jockeys with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich to emerge from South Carolina as the clear challenger to Trump, who won the New Hampshire primary, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the victor in Iowa’s caucuses.

The approach takes away from Bush’s months-long insistence that he’s running as “my own man,” but could be a perfect fit for South Carolina. “The Bush name is golden in my state,” says South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who ended his White House run in December and endorsed Jeb Bush in January.

George W. Bush retains wide appeal among Republicans, from evangelicals and business leaders to military veterans. All are prominent in South Carolina, with Bush campaign aide Brett Doster going so far as to say that George W. Bush is “the most popular Republican alive.”

After the debate, some Republicans again suggested Trump had gone too far. Bush wasn’t alone on stage leaping to his brother’s defense, with Rubio coming back to the moment to say, “I thank God all the time it was George W. Bush in the White House on 9/11 and not Al Gore.”

The attack on George W. Bush carries risk for Trump, given the Bush family’s long social and political ties in South Carolina and the state’s hawkish national security bent, bolstered by more than a half-dozen military installations and a sizable population of veterans who choose to retire in the state.

Bush and his backers certainly hope it’s the case. Right to Rise USA, a super political action committee backing Bush, is airing two television ads blasting Trump and touting Bush for taking him on, and on Friday, a committee spokesman says, a radio ad will launch that compiles multiple audio clips of Trump using profanity in public settings, most recently when he used an uncouth epithet about Cruz.

“The time is now for South Carolina to end the Trump charade,” an announcer says.

Yet Trump has repeatedly defied predictions that his comments might threaten his perch atop the field.

As he jousted Saturday with Trump, Jeb Bush said, “this is not about my family or his family.”

But the Bushes have quite a history in South Carolina. In 2000, George W. Bush beat John McCain in a nasty contest, marred by rumors that McCain had an illegitimate black child. McCain adopted a child from Bangladesh. George H.W. Bush, the 41st president, won twice here, beating Bob Dole in 1988 and demolishing Pat Buchanan in 1992.

One of the elder Bush’s top strategists, Lee Atwater, hailed from South Carolina. Last week, Jeb Bush touted the endorsement of Iris Campbell, the widow of former South Carolina Gov. Carroll Campbell, a national co-chairman of previous Bush presidential campaigns.

Yet even as he defended his brother’s presidency at Saturday’s debate, Jeb Bush found a way to distance himself from George W. Bush’s business affairs and criticized Trump at the same time. The issue: eminent domain.

Before entering politics, George W. Bush was part-owner of the Texas Rangers, and their home city of Arlington, Texas, used eminent domain to take private land and build a stadium for the team. Trump has defended such uses of eminent domain as a way to foster economic development.

Retorted Bush, who argued eminent domain should be reserved for public infrastructure projects, “There is all sorts of intrigue about where I disagree with my brother. There would be one right there.”

 

 

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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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Bloomberg confirms he is seriously considering White House run

BloombergMichael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City, said he is considering running for U.S. president in 2016, the Financial Times reported on Monday.

The 73-year-old founder of the eponymous financial information group was critical of the quality of debate in the presidential contest and said he was “looking at all the options” when asked whether he was considering a run, the newspaper said.

“I find the level of discourse and discussion distressingly banal and an outrage and an insult to the voters,” Bloomberg told the Financial Times in an interview, adding that the U.S. public deserved “a lot better.”

Bloomberg has told aides to draw up plans for an independent campaign for the U.S. presidency, a source familiar with the situation told Reuters on Jan. 23, confirming a report in the New York Times.

He would be willing to spend at least $1 billion of his own money on a campaign for the November 2016 election, according to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the former mayor’s thinking.

Bloomberg has given himself an early March deadline for entering the race, the source said, after commissioning a poll in December to see how he would fare against Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the Republican and Democratic front-runners.

A late entry into the White House sweepstakes would dramatically alter the balance of power in what would otherwise be a simple left-versus-right matchup in November.

Conventional wisdom holds that Bloomberg would split the Democrats’ support in two since his politics are more liberal than conservative.

Bloomberg is a major funder of gun control efforts and famously clamped down on New Yorkers’ eating and drinking habits with strict limits on salt in restaurants and the allowable sizes of fountain soft drinks.

His efforts earned him the nickname ‘Nanny Bloomberg,’ a label Republicans would be quick to bring out of retirement if he should become a viable candidate.

No third-party candidate has ever won a U.S. presidential election. But Bloomberg, who has close Wall Street ties and liberal social views, sees an opening for his candidacy if Republicans nominate Trump or Texas Senator Ted Cruz and the Democrats nominate Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, the source said.

A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll showed a third-party presidential run by Bloomberg would be a long shot but could help real estate mogul Donald Trump if he lands the Republican nomination.

In a matchup between Trump and Clinton, adding Bloomberg’s name to the ballot would trim Clinton’s lead over Trump to six percentage points from 10, according to the poll conducted from Jan. 23 to Jan. 27.

In a matchup pitting Trump versus Sanders, adding Bloomberg would erode Sanders’ lead over Trump to seven points from 12, the poll results showed.

In all matchups, Bloomberg himself would land just 10 percent or less of the vote in November.

The 73-year-old financial information industry billionaire, who earned a reputation as a social liberal with strong Wall Street ties during his time as New York City mayor, has considered a White House run for years.

 

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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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High-Stakes At Play for Presidential Candidates in Iowa

Iowa CaucusesIn a high-stakes test of enthusiasm versus organization, Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Bernie Sanders hope to ride voter energy into victories in Monday’s Iowa caucuses, as Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton bank on sophisticated get-out-the vote operations months in the making.

The caucuses kick off the 2016 presidential nominating contests, marking a new phase in a tumultuous election that has exposed Americans’ deep frustration with Washington and given rise to candidates few expected to challenge for their party’s nomination when they first entered the race.

After months of campaigning and more than $200 million spent on advertising, the race for supremacy in Iowa is close in both parties. Among Republicans, Trump appears to hold a slim edge over Cruz, a fiery senator from Texas. Clinton and Sanders entered Monday in a surprisingly tight Democratic race, reviving memories of the former secretary of state’s disappointing showing in Iowa eight years ago.

“Stick with me,” Clinton said as she rallied supporters Sunday in Council Bluffs. “Stick with a plan. Stick with experience.”

Sanders, the Vermont senator who has been generating big, youthful crowds across the state, urged voters to help him “make history” with a win in Iowa.

In a show of financial strength, Sanders’ campaign announced Sunday it had raised $20 million in January alone. While Sanders has a large team in Iowa, his operation got off to a later start, particularly compared with Clinton, who has had staff on the ground in the state for nearly a year.

Monday’s contest will also offer the first hard evidence of whether Trump can turn the legion of fans drawn to his plainspoken populism into voters. The scope of the billionaire’s organization in Iowa is a mystery, though Trump himself has intensified his campaign schedule during the final sprint, including a pair of rallies Monday.

Cruz has modeled his campaign after past Iowa winners, visiting all of the state’s 99 counties and courting influential evangelical and conservative leaders. With the state seemingly tailor-made for his brand of uncompromising conservatism, a loss to Trump will likely be viewed as a failure to meet expectations.

Seeking to tamp down expectations, Cruz said Sunday that he’s just pleased to be in the mix for first place.

“If you had told me a year ago that two days out from the Iowa caucuses we would be neck and neck, effectively tied for first place in the state of Iowa, I would have been thrilled,” Cruz said.

Cruz has spent the closing days of the Iowa campaign focused intensely on Marco Rubio, trying to ensure the Florida senator doesn’t inch into second place. Rubio is viewed by many Republicans as a more mainstream alternative to Trump and Cruz, though he’ll need to stay competitive in Iowa in order to maintain his viability.

The campaigns were anxiously keeping an eye on the weather. A snowfall forecast to start Monday night appeared more likely to hinder the hopefuls in their rush out of Iowa than the voters. Republican John Kasich already had decamped to New Hampshire, with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush following behind Monday afternoon, hours before the caucuses start.

The trio of governors has had a light footprint in Iowa, banking instead on strong showings in New Hampshire’s Feb. 9 primary to jumpstart their White House bids. Yet some Republican leaders worry that if Trump or Cruz pull off a big victory in Iowa, it would be difficult to slow their momentum.

Bush, for example, started the year as a fundraising juggernaut. But according to records released Sunday, both his super PAC and campaign fundraising declined significantly in the later months of 2015 as he struggled to keep up with Trump.

Unlike in primaries, where voters can cast their ballots throughout the day, the caucuses begin across Iowa at 7 p.m. CST. Democrats will gather at 1,100 locations and Republicans at nearly 900 spots.

Turnout was expected to be high. The Iowa Republican Party expected GOP turnout to top the previous record of 120,000 people in 2012. Democrats also expect a strong turnout, though not nearly as large as the record-setting 240,000 people who caucused in the 2008 contest between Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards.

Iowa has decidedly mixed results in picking the parties’ eventual nominees. The past two Republican caucus winners, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, faded as the race stretched on. But Obama’s unexpected 2008 victory was instrumental in his path to the nomination, easing the anxieties of those who worried the young black senator would struggle to win white voters.

While both parties caucus on the same night, they do so with different rules.

Republicans vote by private ballot. The state’s 30 Republican delegates are awarded proportionally based on the stateside vote.

Democrats take a more interactive approach, with voters forming groups and publicly declaring their support for a candidate. If the number of people in any group is fewer than 15 percent of the total, they can either choose not to participate or can join another viable candidate’s group.

Those numbers are awarded proportionately, based on statewide and congressional district voting, as Iowa Democrats determine their 44 delegates to the national convention.

 

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