By ALEX ALEXIEV
With only two weeks left before the first Iowa caucuses, the presidential campaign of both parties have become less civil with heated accusations and personal attacks now the rule rather than the exception. If previous experience with presidential electoral politics is an indication of what is to come, there is little doubt that the next two weeks will be characterized by personal attacks and the usual rough and tumble of partisan politics.
The Republican Party – The GOP competition was dominated by the first debate of 2016 on January 14 sponsored by Fox Business Channel in South Carolina. The tone was set almost immediately by Donald Trump who accused his nearest rival in the polls, Ted Cruz, of being “a nasty guy” that nobody likes. Cruz on his part had started a full court press against Trump by publicizing his rather liberal attitudes before he chose to run as a republican candidate and particularly his previous support for gay marriage and abortion, two issues that most republicans consider leftist issues, At stake are the two earliest battles in Iowa and New Hampshire. If either Trump or Cruz manages to win both, which no republican has managed to do to date, he will clearly be established as the dominant front runner. The debate was also noted for the aggressive attitude and impressive showing of Marco Rubio who is clearly attempting to join Trump and Cruz as one of the front runners. Whether he has succeeded in this effort is not yet clear but he continues to enjoy a very high favorability rating among republicans (73%) compared to Trump (34%) which makes his supporters hope that it will eventually come to a competition between Cruz and Rubio. On other issues, such as national security, the republican candidates were unanimous in their sharp criticism of President Obama’s lifting of the sanctions on Iran, as well as his efforts to introduce gun control by means of executive order.
The Democratic Party – Among the democrats the polite tone of earlier debates was replaced by personal attacks to an even greater extent in the debate that took place yesterday on the background of new polls that showed a tightening of the race between Clinton and Sanders in Iowa and a continuing lead by Sanders in New Hampshire. Thus, Sanders accused Hillary of being part of the corrupt system of financing politics by the large banks and also went after her husband, Bill Clinton, whose behavior with respect to women he termed “deplorable.” He also accused Clinton of acting as a republican. Hillary, on her part, sought to portray Sanders as out of touch with his proposals to raise taxes and further portrayed herself as a strong supporter of President Obama, which, she claimed, Sanders is not.
With Sanders surging in the polls in Iowa and now trailing Clinton by only 4% and maintaining his lead in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton has reasons to be worried. Especially because Sanders is widely believed to be unelectable in national elections. Also, her favorability ratings with 51.5% unfavorable are dismal and she also has to deal with the impact of a just released movie titled “13 Hours” about the events in Benghazi, where she clearly lied to the American people by claiming that the attack on Benghazi was a not a terrorist attack.
Latest Polls – national poll averages from realclearpolitics.com.
GOP national: Trump – 34.5%, Cruz – 19.3%, Rubio – 11.8%, Carson – 9%, Bush 4.8%
GOP Iowa: Trump – 27.8%, Cruz 26.7%, Rubio – 11.7%, Carson – 8.7%, Bush – 4.5%
GOP New Hampshire: Trump – 30.4%, Rubio – 12.8%, Kasich – 11.2%, Cruz – 11%, Christie – 9.2%
Democrat national: Clinton – 51%, Sanders – 38.3%, O’Malley – 2.3%
Democrat Iowa: Clinton – 46.8%, Sanders – 42.8%, O’Malley 5.2%
Democrat New Hampshire: Sanders – 48.8%, Clinton – 42.6%, O’Malley – 3%