After what seems like years of anticipation, the Republican and Democratic primaries have finally commenced.
Much to the surprise (and chagrin) of Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and in a result that polling failed to predict, Senator Bernie Sanders (VT) and Clinton virtually tied in the Iowa caucus. This close two-person competition left Martin O’Malley with no choice but to suspend his campaign. There is also speculation in the Sanders camp that something is perhaps awry with the results because the Iowa Democratic Party has been reluctant to provide raw vote counts. The Des Moines Register has stated that “something smells” about the close caucus outcome and tensions are quickly rising. The next few weeks will show whether Clinton and Sanders are as tolerant as they profess to be or whether they will devolve into a knock-down-drag-out.
As for the Republicans, prior to the Iowa caucus, polling showed Donald Trump in the lead in Iowa with 28%, followed by Ted Cruz with 24% and Marco Rubio with 17%. After a record-breaking turnout, Cruz soared to first place with Rubio nearly eclipsing Trump for second and resulting in the suspended campaigns of Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, and Rick Santorum. Cruz’s surprising margin of victory was perhaps due in part to rumors spread by his campaign insinuating that Dr. Ben Carson was dropping out of the race. Was this mistaken information a malicious trick? Did it even make a difference? The only thing we know for certain is that an angry Trump, who has been nursing his bruised ego, has harped on the questionable nature of the rumors in a rallying cry against Cruz. Meanwhile, Rubio continues to rack up crucial endorsements as the only voice of reason amongst the front-runners. Although several candidates are refusing to face the music, the herd is inevitably thinning and it seems this is going to be a three-man race. What will the results in New Hampshire, whose demographics differ greatly from those of Iowa, show about who is ultimately going to survive?
In the time between the caucus in the conservative bastion of Iowa and the primary in more moderate New Hampshire, there have been two opportunities for the Democratic candidates to influence voters. The first of these events was a rather bland Democratic town hall hosted Wednesday night by CNN. Both Sanders and Clinton stuck to their traditional stump speeches (not that we haven’t heard them a thousand times already).
Sanders preached about income inequality, the cost of prescription medicine, universal healthcare, and corrupt campaign finance (poking a less-than-subtle jab at Clinton). His only new contribution seemed to be his claim that he is the “real progressive,” deeming Clinton to be a progressive only when politically expedient. Hillary Clinton stuck to her work with the Child Defense Fund, the legality of assisted suicide (for which she had no answer), and her typical “right-wing conspiracy” bashing. It seems important to note that when questioned about being paid over half a million dollars to speak to Wall Street banks, Clinton commented, “that’s what they offered.” This comment caused many listeners to question her resolve to take on big money.
Though the Wednesday town hall was perhaps a little dry, don’t fret, the Democratic debate on Thursday more than made up for Wednesday’s uneventful showing: