Bedford – Republican Donald Trump appeared poised to clinch hisfirst victory in Tuesday's first-in-the-nation primary in New Hampshire, whileSen Bernie Sanders was cruising to a likely win over Hillary Clinton in whathas
As snowfall brought yet more uncertainty to the race's finalhours, Hillary Clinton tried to move past talk of a shakeup in her campaign andcontroversy over comments by supporters that women should feel obliged to votefor her to become the first female president. Campaigning across thenortheastern state on Monday with her husband and daughter, she worked to flipSanders' favoured critique against her by claiming that he, too, had takenmoney from Wall Street – if only indirectly.
The New Hampshire primary traditionally plays a pivotal role byproviding momentum to the winners heading into the next contests in SouthCarolina and Nevada. Those candidates who fare poorly could see donations dryup and face pressure to withdraw from the race. In the last 10 elections, thewinner of the Republican primary went on to become the eventual nominee eighttimes; on the Democratic side, seven winners went on to become nominees.
Trump, the billionaire businessman, launched the harshest attacks –not just against Texas Sen Ted Cruz, who had bested him in Iowa, but alsoagainst Jeb Bush. The former Florida governor is one of three Republicanshoping that Florida Sen Marco Rubio's recent stumbles have opened a fresh pathfor one of them to emerge as the more mainstream alternative to Trump and Cruz.
"Jeb is having some kind of a breakdown, I think," Trumptold CNN, calling Bush, the son and brother of presidents, a spoiled child andan embarrassment to his family. "I think it's a very sad situation that'staking place."
The enmity was mutual. Vying for votes in Nashua, Bush describedTrump variably as a loser, a liar, a whiner and the worst choice for president.He blasted what he said was Trump's proclivity for "insulting women,castigating Hispanics, ridiculing the disabled and calling American POWslosers."
Trump did get in a shot at Cruz during a massive rally inManchester on Monday night. When an audience member shouted out an insultdirected at Cruz – a vulgar term for "coward" – Trump repeated theterm and jokingly reprimanded the woman.
Cruz spokesperson Rick Tyler responded via email, saying,"Let's not forget who whipped who in Iowa."
Still, Trump was running ahead in pre-primary polls, as wasSanders on the Democratic side as candidates race to collect delegates for theparties' national nominating conventions in July.
Not so long ago, Republicans saw New Hampshire as the provingground that would winnow their unwieldy field of candidates. Rubio's surge intothird place in Iowa one week ago raised the prospect that voters here wouldanoint him over Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ohio Gov John Kasich.
Yet Rubio faced fresh questions about his readiness – and hisability to defeat the Democratic nominee – after Saturday's debate, when he wasmocked for reciting rote talking points about President Barack Obama over andover.
Growing doubts about Rubio seemed to portend a fight for delegatesto the party's national convention that could extend for weeks or months – tothe dismay of Republican Party leaders hoping for a quick consolidation behindanyone but Cruz or Trump. Democrats are already resigned to the likelihood of aprotracted primary contest following Sanders' strong performance in Iowa.
Sensing Rubio's vulnerability, nearly everyone seemed to be on theattack.
Bush's campaign debuted a new ad questioning Kasich's conservativecredentials, while an outside group backing Rubio ran an ad assailing Bush.Christie and Bush both piled on Rubio, claiming he hadn't been tested the waythat governors have.
‘We have come a long way’
In the week since Clinton eked out a win in the Iowa caucuses, hercampaign has worked aggressively to lower expectations for New Hampshire, whereSanders has maintained a sizable lead despite Clinton's victory here eightyears ago against then Illinois-Sen, Barack Obama. Sanders, a Vermont senator,is well known to voters in neighbouring New Hampshire.
Sanders, wary of upsetting a race trending his way, stuck to corecampaign themes as he addressed cheering supporters in Nashua. In recent days,former President Bill Clinton has accused some Sanders' supporters of waging"sexist" attacks, and feminist Gloria Steinem and former Secretary ofState Madeleine Albright have criticised women who aren't supporting Clinton.
Yet Sanders passed up all that on Monday, instead tellingsupporters in Nashua, "We have come a long way in the last ninemonths." But his campaign did take issue with Clinton's claim that Sandersbenefited from Wall Street money donated to Senate Democrats' campaign arm,with campaign manager Jeff Weaver arguing it "suggests the kind ofdisarray that the Clinton campaign finds itself in today."