After a strong stretch for Clinton, Sanders turns more aggressive

25 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

After a strong stretch for Clinton, Sanders turns more aggressive.

DES MOINES, Iowa – Bernie Sanders sharpened the contrast with Hillary Rodham Clinton on a bevy of liberal causes on Saturday, casting himself as a principled progressive before thousands of Iowa Democrats in an appearance that could set the tone for the leadoff presidential caucuses in February. DES MOINES — Historically, every four years the Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner has served as a pivot point in the Democratic race for president. Sanders, the independent Vermont senator, never mentioned Clinton by name at the high-profile fundraising dinner but implicitly criticized her delayed opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Keystone XL pipeline as well as her vote in favor of the Iraq war and passage of the Defense of Marriage Act during her husband’s administration.

Clinton did not respond in kind, making the case that she would be best equipped to take on the Republicans. “I hear Donald Trump when he says we have to make America great again,” Clinton said. “America is great — we just have to make it fair and just.” Clinton and Sanders sit atop a Democratic presidential field that was effectively pared down to two after Vice President Joe Biden announced this week he would not seek the nomination. October has been very good to Clinton, who dominated the first Democratic debate and emerged unscathed from a pressure-laden congressional hearing on the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya. In the previous two weeks a dramatic reshuffling of the Democratic contest put former US secretary of state once again leading in polls in every state, with two fewer opponents and with questions about her previous email practices politically neutered, as least among Democrats. Clinton made a direct appeal to Biden’s supporters, saying that the vice president has been at Obama’s side every step of the way. “He has fought passionately for middle-class families and middle-class values,” she said. She has built a formidable organization, notably in Iowa, where the very first votes of the election cycle will be cast in the state’s Feb. 1 caucuses.

So it was that when Clinton’s opponents, US Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, took the stage in front of more than 6,000 party activists they unveiled speeches with sharper attacks on Clinton. In an e-mail blast that went out to supporters Friday, a day after the Benghazi hearing, Sanders presented a timeline of his decades-old stances on issues including gay rights, trade and Wall Street regulation. In 2007, an electrifying speech at the event from senator Barack Obama was credited as a turning point in his epic primary battle against Hillary Clinton. The e-mail makes clear that, in every area, his record is in line with most grassroots Democratic voters — and that he has held his positions for far longer than Clinton has.

The speech marked a more aggressive turn by Sanders, who struggled at times to scrutinize Clinton’s record during their first debate in Las Vegas earlier this month. Echoing Obama’s subtle criticism of Clinton in his 2007 speech, Sanders said: “I promise you tonight, as your president I will govern based on principle not poll numbers.” The self-identified democratic socialist explicitly compared himself to Obama. That’s not the case.” Hillary Clinton said in an interview with MSNBC on Friday that the law was signed as a “defensive action.” Sanders vowed “not to abandon any segment of American society whether you’re gay or black or Latino or poor or working class — just because it is politically expedient at a given time.” Eight years ago, Obama suggested Clinton was motivated by polls and triangulation while the then-New York senator countered that “change is just a word” unless you have the strength and experience to lead.

Sanders also mentioned the explosive growth in his presidential campaign, which raised nearly the same amount has Clinton has and is on track to have nearly as many campaign staff on the ground in early voting states. “We must have the courage to put our children’s safety — each and every day — ahead of the craven and morally bankrupt interests of the National Rifle Association,” O’Malley said. “The NRA has one goal, and one goal only: selling as many guns as possible, no matter the cost in lives.” Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig, of Brookline, who has raised more than $1 million for his Democratic campaign for president, said that he was not invited to speak and was ignored by party officials organizing the dinner. It capped a daylong pageant of political activities: Former President Bill Clinton headlined his first rally of the campaign, introducing pop singer Katy Perry at a free concert for Clinton’s faithful.

Sanders led cheering supporters across a Des Moines bridge in a march that included chants of “Hey, hey, ho, ho, the oligarchy has to go!” Clinton’s campaign has been on an upswing this month. And the exercise could accelerate after Sanders starts airing his first television ads next month. “We want people to look at his ideas, look at her ideas, look at their track records,” said Tad Devine, a veteran Democratic consultant who is advising Sanders. “In the end, it’s about credibility.” Among the other differences the Sanders camp sees: Clinton opposed same-sex marriage while she was a senator from New York, she voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq, and she has not embraced a proposal to separate commercial and investment banking that Sanders favors. The question is whether offering such a critique of his rival, combined with touting his volunteer numbers and donations, will resonate with undecided voters. Two lesser-known rivals, Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee, abandoned the race following Clinton’s strong performance on Oct. 13 in the first primary debate.

To underscore his long-standing views, the Friday e-mail includes a series of pictures stretching back to a black-and-white one from his days as a college student — with each marking a stand he took that seemed ahead of its time. The dinner, called the “J-J,” was an important showcase for Sanders, a Vermont independent who has drawn large crowds with his calls for a “political revolution” but trails Clinton in national polls. In addition to Clinton’s debate and hearing performances, Biden’s announcement that he would forgo a White House bid has accrued largely to Clinton’s favor, at least in the short term, according to fresh polls. While Sanders generates great enthusiasm among white liberals — as evidenced by the thousands of people he draws to his rallies — he has not yet demonstrated he can broaden his appeal beyond that group. That becomes harder in a two-way matchup, he said. “Sanders should have been leading the ‘Run Joe Run’ movement,” Trippi said. “Now he has to hope that O’Malley gets energized and draws some votes from Clinton.” In recent days, a lead that Sanders enjoyed in New Hampshire has disappeared.

Meanwhile, in Iowa, a pair of recent polls without Biden in the mix showed Clinton’s once-modest lead there growing to between 7 and 11 percentage points. Other events have also added to Clinton’s momentum, including a highly sought endorsement Friday from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a massive public-sector union. Sanders’s team has downplayed any concerns, arguing that their candidate is still in the process of introducing himself and has proven to be a prodigious fundraiser. While Clinton has been airing television ads in Iowa and New Hampshire since early August, Sanders has yet to hit the airwaves. “They’ve spent $5 million on TV in Iowa and New Hampshire,” said Jeff Weaver, Sanders’s campaign manager. “We haven’t spent a penny. We’re going to have the resources to go all the way to the convention.” Sanders’s advisers wouldn’t say much about what their television advertising will look like, though it’s likely to begin with biographical spots about Sanders.

His advisers say that personal attacks are out of bounds — “We’re not going to try to knife her up out there,” Devine said — but that highlighting issue differences is fair game. Sanders stood at the front, part of a group holding a giant campaign banner, while supporters behind him displayed signs stating “the revolution is here” and “the revolution is now”.

Sanders, who represents a largely rural state with a proud hunting tradition, has a mixed record on the issue, including a vote against the landmark 1993 Brady Bill. At a gathering of Democratic women Friday in Washington that both candidates attended, Clinton dwelled on her views on guns, saying she wouldn’t be silenced by the gun lobby. “Stopping gun violence is worth fighting for, and I’m ready to go,” Clinton told the crowd of about 600 people. It was an issue she also highlighted Saturday night in Des Moines. “Establishment politics, the same ol’ same ol’, ain’t gonna do it,” said Sanders.

As the tail end of a five-block line to attend the Clinton event stretched out, more than 100 O’Malley supporters cheered while waiting for their own special musical guest: the candidate himself. O’Malley has led a Baltimore “Celtic rock” bar band for more than a decade; on Saturday his campaign had their candidate strumming an acoustic guitar. While Clinton’s celebrity guest, Katy Perry, sat in a front row table and was given a round of applause, Sanders’s own celebrity, MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer, sat anonymously in the bleachers. Kramer told the Guardian: “I am supporting Bernie because he’s the only candidate that’s actually speaking to the actual challenges that the country faces.” “If you look at Katy Perry’s music, she’s auto-tuned and about as unauthentic as its possible to be,” Kramer said. “We, on the other hand, are sometimes out of tune, sometimes we sing flat, but we’re doing this with all our real heart and our minds.”

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