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Sanders Will Continue Campaign, Debate Biden

Admitting his poor showing in a string of Democratic primaries, Bernie Sanders said Wednesday that he will nevertheless continue presidential campaign as he prepares to debate Joe Biden on Sunday — seeking answers from the former vice president on a host of economic and social issues.

The Vermont independent senator didn’t elaborate on the shape of his campaign after the upcoming debate in Phoenix. But Democrats are beginning to ask how long Sanders will persist as his chances of gaining the party’s presidential nomination shrink.

Sanders spoke with reporters in Burlington, VT, where he retreated on Tuesday night after giving no public statement following his defeats in Michigan, Missouri, Idaho, and Mississippi. He noted his sole victory of the evening in North Dakota and the continuing contest in Washington state, where counting of ballots continued.

“While our campaign has won the ideological debate, we are losing the debate over electability,” Sanders said. “That is what millions of Democrats and independents today believe.”

Sanders also noted that he is favored by a far greater percentage of young voters.

“Today I say to the Democratic establishment, in order to win in the future, you need to win the voters who represent the future of our country.”.

Seeking South Carolina Foothold, Bush Wins Another Graham Backer

By Michael C. Bender, Bloomberg News (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Jeb Bush picked up more support for his presidential campaign in South Carolina on Thursday, signing up more than a dozen military veterans in the state and collecting another member of U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s national security coalition.

Bush, the former Florida governor and son and brother of former presidents, now claims support from four members of Graham’s national security team, even as U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio describes himself as having the best foreign policy resume in the Republican field. The campaign says it has endorsements from 22 supporters of Graham, who ended his presidential bid last month.

“The South Carolina endorsements are reflective of a campaign that’s worked hard at the grassroots level, and work is starting to pay off,” Sally Bradshaw, a senior Bush adviser, said in an interview.

Bradshaw said Bush has secured endorsements from more supporters of Graham because Bush is addressing their biggest concern: Donald Trump. “They want a serious candidate with strong plans for the future and who voters can trust with the presidency,” Bradshaw said. “Senator Graham certainly fit those criteria, and they’re moving to Governor Bush for those same reasons.”

In a CBS/YouGov pollreleased Dec. 20, Trump and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz were leading the race in South Carolina, which holds the American South’s premier presidential primary and offers momentum to candidates before heading into Nevada’s caucuses on Feb. 23 and the hectic month of March, when more than 30 states and territories hold Republican presidential nominating contests. Bush placed fifth in the poll at 7 percent, within the margin of error with Rubio, who was third with 12 percent.

Bush’s new supporters in South Carolina include retired Gen. Melvin Zais, according to the campaign. The others are retired Brig. Gen. Butch Kirven, retired Maj. Gen. George Goldsmith and retired Col. David Lobb.

Bush’s team also announced backing from former South Carolina Education Superintendent Jim Roy, a retired chief master sergeant of the Army, and 14 other veterans. Support among veterans is crucial in an area with a politically influential military presence, which includes a swath of bases in the central and southern areas of the state.

“Our country is facing serious challenges and we need a serious, qualified leader as our next president,” Roy said in a statement. “Jeb Bush has proven that he has what it takes to be a strong and decisive commander in chief. Our country needs a president who understands, believes in and cares for our military. Jeb Bush will be that president.”

Bush’s performance in South Carolina’s primary on Feb. 20 — and that of his Republican rivals — may depend largely on the New Hampshire contest 11 days earlier. Trump is leading in New Hampshire, but Bush is in a fight for second place there, according to a survey by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling released Wednesday.

It’s a different story in Iowa, which holds the first nominating contest on Feb. 1. Bush is trailing badly in the state — a CBS/YouGov poll in mid-December showed him with just 2 percent. The former governor returns to the state for a campaign swing next week, and his allied super PAC, Right to Rise USA, has started to run negative ads in the state aimed at Rubio. The super PAC, which already has spent $50 million on TV ads on behalf of Bush, received another $10 million from Hank Greenberg, who built American International Group Inc. into the world’s largest insurer, according the Wall Street Journal. Greenberg, who told Bloomberg Politics in October that he was backing Bush, didn’t return messages seeking comment.

©2016 Bloomberg News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks at the New Hampshire Forum on Addiction and Heroin Epidemic in Hooksett, New Hampshire, January 5, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder


In 2016, Marco Rubio Is Both Sunny And Ominous

By Sahil Kapur and John McCormick, Bloomberg News (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Sen. Marco Rubio has adopted a darker tone in the first week of 2016, deploying increasingly apocalyptic rhetoric and fiercer attacks on Republican rivals that provide a stark contrast with the relatively non-confrontational brand of sunny optimism that had characterized his presidential campaign through 2015.

Running behind the edgier campaigns of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz nationally and in key early states, the first-term Florida senator needs to put big points on the board in Iowa and New Hampshire in order to stave off an early collapse, and as a result he’s waging ongoing battles against three Republican rivals.

On Tuesday, Rubio released a TV ad that features him speaking directly to the camera: “Barack Obama released terrorists from Guantanamo, and now they are plotting to attack us,” Rubio says, as ominous music plays in the background. “His plan after the attack in San Bernardino: take away our guns.” The same day, he told a crowd in Mason City, Iowa, “If we get this election wrong, there may be no turning around for America.”

On Wednesday, Rubio sent supporters an email under the all-caps subject line “Fight for gun rights,” and warned that “Obama has waged a war on the Constitution” with his new executive actions aimed at expanding background checks for gun purchases. And shortly after North Korea claimed it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb, Rubio released a statement declaring, “Our enemies around the world are taking advantage of Obama’s weakness.”

While Rubio isn’t jettisoning the hopeful message of reviving the American dream that endeared him to many center-right Republicans, he’s now alternating it with a more ominous one. The effect is to make him sound like Ronald Reagan one minute, and like a character from the popular TV series “24” the next.

“If we capture a terrorist alive, we’re not reading them Miranda rights, they’re not going to be hired a lawyer and we’re going to give them a one-way ticket to Guantanamo, where we’re going to find out everything they know,” Rubio said Tuesday, speaking to a standing-room-only crowd of close to 200 gathered at a trucking company headquarters in Fort Dodge, Iowa. A few minutes later, he oscillated back to a more upbeat tone.

“We will not just save the American Dream. We will expand it to reach more people and change more lives than ever before,” he said. “And when our work is done, the 21st century will not just be as good as the 20th century, it is going to be better.”

Rubio’s more aggressive tone comes as his path to the nomination has grown complicated. He’s in third nationally in an average of recent polls, significantly lagging two rivals who have made anger the hallmark of their campaign rhetoric: Rubio is about 24 points behind Trump and 9 points behind Cruz. In Iowa, where the first votes of the presidential campaign will be cast in Feb. 1 caucuses, Rubio stands in third place, about 20 points behind Cruz. In New Hampshire he’s in second place, 13 points behind Trump, barely leading Cruz and Chris Christie. No Republican under modern primary rules dating back to the 1970s has won the nomination after losing the first two states.

The duality in Rubio’s message — sometimes sunny, sometimes dark — reflects his strategy to appeal to all factions of the Republican Party, including the establishment, tea party and evangelical wings. As a result Rubio’s support is broader, but less intense, than that of rivals, who are focusing their appeals more exclusively on one the party’s various constituencies. For Cruz that’s meant a focus on Iowa, with its disproportionately large evangelical vote, while Bush and Christie are zeroing in on New Hampshire, which has a more establishment-friendly Republican electorate.

“The differences between us and other candidates is that some candidates are focused on only one place and we, of course, are campaigning in multiple places,” Rubio told the Des Moines Register’s editorial board on Wednesday.

Rubio is also battling multiple rivals for the various constituencies he’s trying to win. He used a Monday speech on foreign policy to paint Cruz and Rand Paul — rivals for the tea party and evangelical vote — as “isolationist candidates who are apparently more passionate about weakening our military and intelligence capabilities than about destroying our enemies.” Rubio said the Islamic State terrorist group would have lobbied for the USA Freedom Act, a law to limit bulk government collection of Americans’ phone records. Cruz supported the legislation. Meanwhile Rubio’s campaign also continued to circulate articles Wednesday questioning Cruz’s consistency on conservative causes, continuing a battle that the young Cuban-American senators have been waging for two months.

©2016 Bloomberg News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Republican U.S. presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio speaks during a town hall meeting at the Fisher Community Center in Marshalltown, Iowa, January 6, 2016. REUTERS/Scott Morgan