An Update on the Relevant 2016 Candidates
By Clifford Michel
Now that 2016 is here, we can stop saying “the road to 2016;” especially since the Iowa caucuses are less than a month away. The state of both the Democratic field and the Republican field has changed dramatically in the past few weeks.
Attacks have become more pointed as each candidate hopes to draw the most people to their caucus on February 1.
Here’s a rundown of each candidate’s political standing as of now:
Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State
On a January 17 debate hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus in South Carolina, Hillary Clinton took her most pointed jabs at her rival, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), thus far.
Clinton has avoided this style of political theater ever since she entered the race, choosing to take the high road and refusing to even mentioning Sanders by name.
Even when she was criticized by Sanders in the three previous Democratic debates, Clinton still opted for the high road, making measured and calm rebuttals.
All of that went out of the window the day before Martin Luther King Jr. day. Clinton went for the jugular and ripped Sanders on his poor voting record on guns, lofty goals for health care reform, and the lack of details in his tax plan.
“[He] voted against the Brady Bill five times,” she said. “He voted for what we call the ‘Charleston Loophole.’ He voted for immunity for gunmakers and sellers, which the NRA (National Rifle Association) said was the most important piece of gun legislation in 20 years…He voted to let guns go onto Amtrak, go into national parks. He voted against doing research to figure out how we can save lives.”
Another note is Clinton’s decision to clothe herself in the legacy of President Barack Obama. In the last debate, Clinton hailed the Affordable Care Act, the country’s economic recovery, and foreign policy achievements as benchmarks that she’d like to build on.
“We finally have a path to universal health care. We have accomplished so much already,” Clinton pleaded. “I do not to want see the Republicans repeal it, and I don’t to want see us start over again.”
Almost all of Clinton’s actions are indicative of one fact: Sanders is catching up with her in the polls.
A Quinnipiac University poll released on January 12 showed Sanders at 49%, Clinton at 44%, and O’Malley at 5% in Iowa.
Other polls in the past already showed Sanders ahead in New Hampshire.
Bernie Sanders, Independent Senator of Vermont
Clinton forced the often on-message Bernie Sanders into defensive mode several times during the debate.
Sanders cited his “D-” rating from the NRA and dodged a sly attack from Clinton, where she suggested that Sanders simply wanted to tear up the Affordable Care Act.
“No one is tearing this up. We’re going to go forward,” Sanders said.
“What a Medicare for All program does is finally provide in this country health care for every man, woman, and child, as a right,” Sanders continued.
It’s also worth noting that Sanders liberal ambitions and cadence won rounds of applause (just as much as Clinton’s if not more) and laughs from the audience as well.
Trump vs. Cruz vs. the Establishment
As Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has risen to the forefront of Iowa polls, he and Donald Trump have been trading blows as each of them gun for the top spot in the Iowa caucuses.
Trump—who was chiefly responsible for raising false allegations that President Obama wasn’t born in the United States—has brought up questions about Ted Cruz’s ability to be president, given that he was born in Canada.
The question hasn’t gone away, with everyone from TV pundits to constitutional law professors weighing in on the matter.
“You can’t have a nominee who’s going to be subject to being thrown out as the nominee,” Trump told attendees at a New Hampshire rally, according to CNN. “You just can’t do it. So you gotta make that decision, folks.”
Cruz has responded with calm and poise to the attacks, though the debate still lingers.
“The Internet has all sorts of fevered swamp theories, but the facts are simple,” Cruz told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “My mom was born in Wilmington, Delaware. She was an American citizen by birth. She’s been an American citizen all 81 years of her life. She’s never been a citizen of any other place.”
Trump also attacked Cruz’s unpopularity in Congress due to his alienation of both party’s leadership (i.e. his causing of a government shutdown in 2013).
“Look, the truth is, he’s a nasty guy,” Trump told ABC’s “This Week.” “Nobody likes him. Nobody in Congress likes him. Nobody likes him anywhere once they get to know him. He’s a very–he’s got an edge that’s not good. You can’t make deals with people like that and it’s not a good thing. It’s not a good thing for the country. Very nasty guy.”
Meanwhile, establishment candidates such as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida), and Ohio Governor John Kasich have all been struggling to remain relevant.
But after the Iowas Caucus results are in, anything and everyhting is up in the air.