MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — Encouraged by Marco Rubio’s stumbles, the Republicans’ second-tier candidates are seeing fresh hope for survival as they sprint to the finish line in New Hampshire. The Democrats’ Clinton-Sanders duel is veering into gender politics.
A day before the nation’s first primary, Donald Trump ramped up his schedule in the state where he’s poised to clinch his first victory Tuesday following a humbling second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses. The pressure on, he waxed confident about his ability to win.
Though Trump’s GOP opponents were mainly focusing their attacks on each other, Trump and Bush pulled no punches in dueling television interviews. Bush, who has blasted Trump for using eminent domain in business deals, called Trump a “loser,” while the billionaire businessman called Bush an “embarrassment to his family.”
“Jeb is having some kind of a breakdown, I think,” Trump told CNN. “I think it’s a very sad situation that’s taking place.”
The Democratic race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders swerved in a new direction after a pair of prominent Clinton supporters railed against female voters who are backing Sanders despite the prospect of electing the first female president. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said over the weekend that there was “a special place in hell” for women who don’t help women, while writer and famed feminist Gloria Steinem suggested women backing Sanders were doing so to meet boys.
Steinem sought to stem the criticism she got, apologizing in a Facebook post for suggesting young women weren’t serious about their political views. Yet the dust-up spoke to the underlying concern among many Clinton backers that the former first lady isn’t securing the levels of support among women her campaign had anticipated considering the historic nature of her candidacy.
Adding further fuel to the fracas was former President Bill Clinton, who earlier accused Sanders’ supporters of waging “profane” and “sexist” attacks on his wife on the Internet. The former president took a softer tone Monday as the two Clintons campaigned together at a breakfast joint in Manchester, though he displayed palpable frustration at Sanders’ success with young voters.
When a supporter praised his own economic record as president, Bill Clinton replied, “We’d be better off if any of these young people could remember it.”
Sanders, cruising toward a likely first win in New Hampshire, resisted calling more attention to the accusations being leveled by Clinton’s campaign. Hoping to avoid any last-minute misstep, he stuck to core campaign themes as he addressed cheering supporters in Nashua.
“We have come a long way in the last nine months,” Sanders said.
At a Republican town hall in Hudson, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie faced a woman in her 20s who railed against Albright’s comments but asked Christie why she should vote for him instead.
“Because you want someone to tell you the truth,” Christie said.
After hearing his answer, the woman said Christie had earned her vote. But the brash-talking governor got a colder reception later outside a Hampstead coffee shop, where he slipped out the back door to avoid a group of home-state critics with signs reading “New Jersey’s Biggest Loser.”
Trump faced fresh criticism of his call for interrogating some foreign prisoners with tactics even harsher than waterboarding, which President Barack Obama halted after taking office. Trump hasn’t said exactly what techniques he’d support, but he told a town hall in Salem that waterboarding is “peanuts” compared to what Islamic State militants are doing.
“It’s fine,” Trump said of waterboarding. “And much tougher than that is fine. When we’re dealing with these animals we can’t be soft and weak like our politicians.”
Not so, said Sen. John McCain, the GOP’s 2008 presidential nominee and himself a former prisoner of war. The Arizona Republican said waterboarding had stained U.S. honor without advancing national security, and he urged the candidates to remember the “inalienable rights” embedded in American values.
“Our nation needs a commander in chief who will make clear to those that fight on our behalf that they are defending this sacred ideal,” McCain said.
Unpredictable and known for last-minute decisions, New Hampshire voters had been expected to help winnow the crowded Republican primary, clarifying which of the candidates would emerge as the strongest alternative to front-runners Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
But a shaky debate performance by Sen. Marco Rubio, who gained fresh interest after placing third in Iowa, offered new hope to Christie, Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, suggesting a longer battle slog for the GOP that could extend after New Hampshire into South Carolina, Nevada and beyond.
Rubio, who was roundly mocked for reciting rote talking points over and over in Saturday’s debate, was working to flip the script. He argued that if he sounded repetitive, it was only because he was consistent.
Lederman reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Jill Colvin in Salem, Holly Ramer in Hudson, and Sergio Bustos and Lisa Lerer in Nashua contributed to this report.
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