Tag Archives: primaries

Candidates line up in Wisconsin congressional races

A trio of ambitious elected officials, a pair of farmers, a former Marine with close ties to Gov. Scott Walker and a convicted federal felon are vying for votes as Wisconsin residents get ready to winnow down a crowded field of congressional candidates in the state’s Aug. 9 primary.

Barring partisan challenges or findings that candidates lack enough viable signatures, it appears candidates in six of the state’s eight congressional districts will find themselves in primary battles for the right to advance to November’s general election.

The messiest race looks like northeastern Wisconsin’s 8th Congressional District, where Republican incumbent Reid Ribble’s decision not to seek re-election has led no fewer than six major party candidates to declare they’re running the race.

The line-up is a colorful one.

The Democratic field included Jerry Kobishop, a Sturgeon Bay-based country singer who advanced to the second round of auditions on NBC’s “The Voice” in 2015.

But Government Accountability Board records showed he didn’t file any nomination papers by the deadline, so he’s out of the running.

That leaves Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson as the lone Democrat in the race. Nelson, a former legislator, staged a one-man sit-in in the Assembly chamber for five days in 2007 in an effort to push Republicans and Democrats into agreement on the state budget. GAB records showed he had filed 1,459 signatures, 459 more than the 1,000 names congressional candidates need to get on the ballot.

The Republican side features former Hilbert Village Board member Gary Schomburg; Terry McNulty, who runs a survey business in Forestville; current state Sen. Frank Lasee of De Pere, and Mike Gallagher of Green Bay, a former Marine who served as national security adviser for Walker’s short-lived presidential campaign last summer. McNulty, Lasee and Gallagher all filed more than 1,000 signatures, according to GAB records; Schomburg filed only 906.

Meanwhile in northwestern Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District, three Democrats are fighting for nomination. The field includes Mary Hoeft of Rice Lake, a communications instructor at the University of Wisconsin-Barron County; Ethel Quisler of Wausau, who provides services for the disabled; and Marathon County Supervisor Joel Lewis. Hoeft and Lewis had filed enough nomination signatures with the GAB to get on the ballot. Quisler had filed nothing.

The 7th’s Republican incumbent, Sean Duffy, faces a primary challenger in the form of Donald Raihala of Superior. Raihala ran as a Republican for the same seat in 2014, after running for the seat as a Democrat in 2010. GAB records showed Raihala turned in his nomination signatures but didn’t indicate a total.

In southeastern Wisconsin’s 6th Congressional District, Democrats Sarah Lloyd, a Wisconsin Dells farmer, and Michael Slattery, a Maribel farmer, will square off in hopes of facing Republican incumbent Glenn Grothman in November. Both filed enough signatures to get on the ballot.

Three other congressional incumbents face longshot challengers.

Williams Bay inventor Paul Nehlen will try to unseat Paul Ryan, the House speaker who represents south-central Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District, in a Republican primary. Nehlen reported raising no money during the first quarter of the year; Ryan raised $9.1 million. Nehlen’s campaign said he filed about 1,810 nomination signatures.

Wisconsin Democratic Party treasurer Ryan Solen and Janesville plumber Tom Breu were set to face each other for the Democratic nomination in the 1st. Solen had filed 1,044 signatures. GAB records showed Breu had filed his signatures as well but didn’t include a total.

In western Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District, Democratic incumbent Ron Kind faces a challenge from former high school teacher Myron Buchholz of Eau Claire. Whoever wins the primary wins the seat; no Republicans have declared their candidacy in the district. Buchholz faces an uphill fight against Kind, though; he raised $20,000 in the first quarter compared with Kind’s $1.6 million. GAB records indicated Buchholz filed nomination signatures but didn’t include a total.

Incumbent Democrat Gwen Moore will face former state Sen. Gary George in a primary in southeastern Wisconsin’s 4th Congressional District. George was sentenced to four years in federal prison after he was convicted of a felony in a kickback scheme in 2004. GAB records didn’t show how many signatures George filed. Nothing prevents felons from running for Congress.

 

Two of Wisconsin’s Democratic senators face primaries

Two key Wisconsin Senate Democrats face challengers from within their own party as the Legislature’s Aug. 9 primary looms.

Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling of La Crosse and Sen. Lena Taylor of Milwaukee are among a handful of lawmakers who will be fighting for their jobs in the election that will set the candidate lineup for November’s general election.

Shilling and Taylor are the only Senate incumbents who face challengers, but they’re the most prominent names in the primary in either house.

All 99 Assembly seats and 16 of the Senate’s 32 seats will be in play in November.

Jared Landry’s primary bid against Shilling is a long shot. She holds a key leadership position as Senate minority leader, shaping responses to Republican proposals and helping other Democrats campaign around the state.

The Associated Press’ attempts to reach Landry through possible listings for his home and cell phone were unsuccessful. In an interview with the La Crosse Tribune, he declined to criticize Shilling. He indicated that he planned to use the Senate as a springboard to run for governor and president.

Online court records show Landry has a lengthy misdemeanor criminal record, including convictions for fourth-offense operating while intoxicated, resisting an officer, marijuana possession, property damage and disorderly conduct. But he’s still eligible for office — only convicted felons are barred from running.

Although Taylor holds a leadership position as a member of the Legislature’s powerful budget-writing committee, she faces a much stiffer challenge from state Rep. Mandela Barnes of Milwaukee. He’s likely to receive national support through Wisconsin Working Families, the group that provided over $300,000 to back Sen. Chris Larson in his failed attempt to oust Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele earlier this year.

Taylor is known for her fiery temperament, as evidenced in speeches she’s made on both the Joint Finance Committee and the Senate floor.

Barnes said in a telephone interview that their district needs “transformative leadership.” She said Taylor voted for a bill that regulated payday loans but didn’t cap loan interest rates in 2010, voted for a bill allowing concealed carry in 2011 and introduced what he called a “takeover” bill in 2009 that would have allowed Milwaukee’s mayor to appoint the city’s school district superintendent.

Taylor said the payday loan bill did limit the amount of loans and lawmakers, adding that lawmakers often have to compromise and settle for bills that don’t go as far as they’d like. As for concealed carry, she said people have a right to bear arms. The school bill was an attempt to do something to improve Milwaukee schools, she said.

Taylor said Barnes is “Monday-morning quarterbacking” and instead should help her as she tries to improve conditions at Wisconsin’s youth prison in Irma rather than attack her.

On the Assembly side, Democrats Josh Zepnick and Leon Young, both of Milwaukee, Lisa Subeck of Madison and Sondy Pope of Mount Horeb all face primary challengers. Rep. Nancy Vander Meer of Tomah is the only Republican in either house in a primary.

Regardless of the primary results, Democrats will be hard-pressed to regain control of either house this fall. Thanks largely to a redistricting plan GOP lawmakers established in 2011 that consolidated their power in districts across the state, Republicans hold a 19–14 edge in the Senate and an all but insurmountable 63–36 advantage in the Assembly.

Mordecai Lee, a UW-Milwaukee political scientist and himself a former Democratic legislator, predicted the primaries will be a quiet, underwhelming affair after an April presidential primary that saw the highest turnout in more than 40 years.

Few people vote in primaries to begin with, and this August’s ballot features no statewide races, Lee said. That means likely only a party’s hard-core members will show up.

Louis Weisberg contributed to this report.

Trump wins, GOP tumbles into chaos

GOP front-runner Donald Trump swept three states and drove rival Marco Rubio out of the White House race, but the New York billionaire’s loss in the crucial state of Ohio wrought more chaos for a party deeply fractured by his candidacy.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton’s victories on March 15 in Florida, Illinois, Ohio and North Carolina cast doubt on U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’s ability to overtake her for the Democratic Party’s nomination.

Trump’s wins

Trump’s wins in Florida, Illinois and North Carolina brought him closer to the 1,237 delegates he needs to win the nomination and left those in the GOP trying to stop him with a dilemma.

Republicans can either throw their weight behind a candidate who rejects their policy goals or go on trying to stop him in the hope that he falls short of the majority required, enabling them to put forward another candidate at the July convention in Cleveland to formally pick their candidate for the Nov. 8 election.

That, however, would risk alienating the millions of Americans who back the real estate developer and former reality TV show host.

Ohio Governor John Kasich’s victory in his home state left him as the last establishment Republican candidate standing after Rubio, a U.S. senator, pulled out of the race after losing in a Trump landside in Rubio’s home state of Florida.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who has sought to fashion himself the lead anti-Trump alternative, was outrun by Trump everywhere on March 15 except Missouri, where he trailed Trump narrowly with nearly all votes counted.

Early on March 16, MSNBC projected Trump and Clinton would win Missouri in very tight races.

Many party leaders are appalled at Trump’s incendiary rhetoric and believe his policy positions are out of step with core GOP sentiment, such as his vow to deport 11 million illegal immigrants, temporarily ban Muslims from the United States, build a wall along the border with Mexico and impose protectionist trade policies.

But their bid to stop him has come too late as a GOP field that once included Trump and 16 high-profile party figures has dwindled now to only three with Trump, 69, in command ahead of Cruz, 45, and Kasich, 63.

A call for GOP unity

Trump, speaking at his Mar-a-Lago beachfront resort on Florida’s Atlantic Ocean coast, called on Republicans to unite behind him and made a point of mentioning that he had spoken to the two top elected Republicans in the United States, House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“The fact is we have to bring our party together,” Trump, more restrained than usual, said at an event that was billed as a news conference but where he took no questions.

“We have something happening that actually makes the Republican Party the biggest political story anywhere in the world,” he said, referring to what he says are the millions of new voters he has attracted to the Republican Party.

“Democrats are coming in, Independents are coming in, and very, very importantly, people that never voted before. It’s an incredible thing,” Trump said.

After this week’s victories, Trump needs to win about 54 percent of the roughly 1,100 delegates still up for grabs. It’s not an insurmountable challenge, especially when factoring in winner-take-all states, like Arizona’s 58 delegates and New Jersey’s 51 delegates.

Clinton’s wins

The wins for former Secretary of State Clinton, 68, added to her lead in pledged delegates over Senator Sanders, 74, of Vermont, and gave her an almost insurmountable edge.

As she had after other primary wins, Clinton was thinking on March 15 about a possible match-up in the Nov. 8 presidential election with Trump.

“We can’t lose what made America great in the first place, and this isn’t just about Donald Trump,” Clinton told supporters in West Palm Beach, Florida. “We can’t just talk about economic inequality, we have to take on all forms of inequality and discrimination.”

‘Holding us together’

Kasich’s win in Ohio, his first in the nominating fight, makes him the candidate of choice for party leaders worried Trump’s rowdy campaign will lead Republicans to defeat not only in the presidential race, but in state and U.S. congressional races.

Kasich, who has tried to emphasize the positive in a Republican race dominated by the pugnacious Trump, said his campaign was “about holding us together, not pulling us apart.”

“I will not take the low road to the highest office in the land,” Kasich told supporters in Berea, Ohio. “We are going to go all the way to Cleveland and secure the Republican nomination.”

The loss in his home state of Florida was a brutal blow for Rubio, who was once a rising star in the party and had become the choice of the party establishment’s anti-Trump forces until his campaign nosedived.

“People are angry, people are frustrated,” he said, adding it would have been easy to stir up those frustrations and make people more angry. “I chose a different route and I’m proud of it.”

Trump’s closest challenger is Cruz, a favorite of the conservative tea party, who is second to Trump in delegates but has struggled in states where the electorate is not heavy on the strongly conservative evangelicals who have been Cruz’s biggest base of support.

By capturing Florida, Trump won all 99 of the state’s delegates, giving him a huge lift in his drive to the GOP nomination.

Kasich’s chief strategist, John Weaver, argued in a memo released after the Ohio result that no candidate was going to win the necessary delegates before the convention and Kasich would be the best Republican candidate to go up against Clinton.

Additional reporting by Megan Cassella, Ginger Gibson and Alana Wise in Washington and James Oliphant in Miami; Writing by John Whitesides and Steve Holland; Editing by Howard Goller

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks to supporters at a campaign rally in West Palm Beach, Florida March 15, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks to supporters at a campaign rally in West Palm Beach, Florida March 15, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
GOP U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks about the results of the Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Illinois and Missouri primary elections during a news conference held at his Mar-A-Lago Club, in Palm Beach, Florida, March 15, 2016. REUTERS/Joe Skipper
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks about the results of the Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Illinois and Missouri primary elections during a news conference held at his Mar-A-Lago Club, in Palm Beach, Florida, March 15, 2016. REUTERS/Joe Skipper
Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks about the primary election results in the states of Florida, Ohio and Illinois during a campaign rally in Phoenix. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Nancy Wiechec
Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks about the primary election results in the states of Florida, Ohio and Illinois during a campaign rally in Phoenix. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Nancy Wiechec

Sanders, Trump win Michigan prizes

Bernie Sanders stunned front-runner Hillary Clinton in a narrow Michigan primary upset, giving his upstart campaign new energy.

Clinton won in Mississippi, but Sanders’ victory is seen as likely to ensure a prolonged fight to pick a candidate for November’s general election.

Meanwhile, Republican front-runner Donald Trump racked up primary wins in the big prize of Michigan as well as Mississippi and Hawaii on March 8, brushing off a week of blistering attacks from the party’s establishment and expanding his lead in the White House nominating race.

Trump’s win in Michigan

Trump’s convincing win in Michigan restored his outsider campaign’s momentum and increased the pressure on the party’s anti-Trump forces to find a way to stop the brash billionaire’s march to the nomination ahead of several key contests next week.

A young supporter holds up a campaign sign for U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump at Madison Central High School during at a campaign rally in Madison, Mississippi. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Rick Guy
A young supporter holds up a campaign sign for U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump at Madison Central High School during at a campaign rally in Madison, Mississippi. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Rick Guy

The 69-year-old New Yorker built his victories in Michigan, in the heart of the industrial Midwest, and Mississippi in the Deep South with broad appeal across many demographics. He won evangelical Christians, Republicans, independents, those who wanted an outsider and those who said they were angry about how the federal government is working, according to exit polls.

Trump said in several television interviews on Wednesday he was drawing new voters to the Republican Party and the establishment figures who are resisting his campaign should save their money and focus on beating the Democrats in November.

“If this party came together … nobody could beat it,” Trump told NBC’s “Today” program. Asked on ABC if he was ready to wrap up the nomination, he said: “I’d like to.”

The results were a setback for rival John Kasich, governor of Ohio, who had hoped to pull off a surprise win in neighboring Michigan, and for Marco Rubio, a U.S. senator from Florida who has become the establishment favorite but lagged badly in both Michigan and Mississippi and appeared unlikely to win delegates in either.

Speaking at a news conference in Jupiter, Florida after the voting, Trump said Rubio’s recent attacks on him had backfired.

“Hostility works for some people; it doesn’t work for everyone,” the real estate magnate said.

Trump, a former reality TV star, has peppered his campaign with put-downs of rivals and critics. Many mainstream Republicans have been offended by his statements on Muslims, immigrants and women and alarmed by his threats to international trade deals. Trump has dismissed criticism his statements would be harmful to U.S. interests.

Ted Cruz, a 45-year-old U.S. senator from Texas whose recent victories have positioned him as the prime alternative to Trump, won the party’s primary in Idaho.

But Trump suggested his rivals had little hope going forward, and took particular aim at Cruz.

Asked if he would consider Rubio as potential vice presidential running mate to help coalesce his Republican support and attract Hispanic voters, Trump told MNSBC “Sure,” but added he was not yet ready to make that decision.

‘A hard time’

“Ted is going to have a hard time,” Trump said of Cruz. “He rarely beats me.”

Trump continues to enjoy a wide lead nationally in the Republican race, although Cruz has been climbing over the past week. Among those who identify as Republicans, Trump has settled in at about 40 percent support, according to a five-day rolling average ending on Tuesday in the Reuters/Ipsos poll.

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks about the results of the Michigan, Mississippi and other primary elections during a news conference held at his Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Joe Skipper
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks about the results of the Michigan, Mississippi and other primary elections during a news conference held at his Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Joe Skipper

Cruz at 23 percent and Kasich at 11 percent have been on the rise, largely at Rubio’s expense.

The Michigan victory sets Trump up for a potentially decisive day of voting next week. On March 15, Ohio, Florida, Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina – like Michigan, states rich in the delegates who will select their party’s nominee at July’s Republican National Convention – cast ballots.

The Republican contests in Florida and Ohio award all the state’s delegates to the winner. If Trump could sweep those two states and pile up delegates elsewhere next week, it could knock home-state favorites Rubio and Kasich out of the race and make it tough for Cruz to catch him.

Anti-Trump Super PACs have spent millions of dollars on advertisements designed to attack Trump’s character in Florida.

But Trump’s relentless anti-free trade rhetoric and promise to slap taxes on cars and parts shipped in from Mexico resonated in Michigan, which has lost tens of thousands of manufacturing and auto industry jobs.

“The biggest takeaway is that the Republican establishment is in its death throes. The only remaining candidates are 100 percent anti-establishment,” said Mark Meckler, an early founder of the conservative Tea Party movement.

Trump said he and Republican U.S. House of Representative Speaker Paul Ryan recently spoke by phone, telling MSNBC “It was a smart call,” in a sign that he would be willing to work with the Republican congressional leader.

Sanders’ success in Michigan

In the Democratic race, Sanders told reporters in Florida that the results in Michigan were a repudiation of the opinion polls and pundits who had written off his chances in the state. Opinion polls had shown Clinton with a double-digit lead going into the primary.

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders speaks to supporters on the night of the Michigan, Mississippi and other primaries at his campaign rally in Miami. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders speaks to supporters on the night of the Michigan, Mississippi and other primaries at his campaign rally in Miami. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

The U.S. senator from Vermont, a democratic socialist, said the win showed his political revolution was “strong in every part of the country. Frankly, we believe our strongest areas are yet to come.”

Clinton’s campaign signaled ahead of Michigan that the race could be tight. Clinton, her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and daughter Chelsea Clinton all campaigned in the state over the past few days trying to garner last-minute votes.

U.S. Housing Secretary Julian Castro, often seen as a potential running-mate for Hillary Clinton, said he does not expect to be the Democratic vice presidential pick. “There’s been no conversation whatsoever,” Castro told reporters on Wednesday at the Democratic National Committee Hispanic caucus summit in Miami.

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton answers a question from the audience during a Democratic Town Hall event in Detroit. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Rebecca Cook
Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton answers a question from the audience during a Democratic Town Hall event in Detroit. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

Bring it — to the ballot box

State election officials say “bring it” to the ballot box.

They mean your photo ID.

We say “bring it.”

And we mean your right, your vote, your democratic power.

Voting in the 2016 election cycle began this month, with much attention to the caucuses in Iowa and the first-in-the-nation primary in New Hampshire. Of course at WiG we’re as interested in — and vested in — the presidential race as you. But we also want to emphasize the importance of state and local elections and the role of each citizen in the democratic process.

Regardless of which party holds your allegiance or who you support on the ballot, pocket your photo ID and “bring it” to the polls on Feb. 16 to cast your choice in the Wisconsin primary, to be followed by the presidential preference primary, the spring election and the general election.

This is no endorsement of the photo ID law that the GOP enacted at the bidding of a right-wing movement to minimize the influence of voters who traditionally vote for  the Democratic Party. Like you, we wanted to see this discriminatory measure overturned by the courts. We still want to see the law repealed.

But, to get there, we must “bring it.”

We must abide by the photo ID law so we can elect those who support voting rights for all and oust those who advocate for a government that just serves them and their well-funded special interests.

We know there’s confusion among voters about whether a photo ID is needed to vote and which IDs are acceptable. We found this guidance from the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, the ACLU of Wisconsin and Common Cause.

ACCEPTABLE IDS: Include a Wisconsin driver’s license, a state ID card, a tribal ID card, an unexpired receipt for a driver’s license or state ID, a certificate of naturalization issued within the past two years, a U.S. military photo ID, a U.S. passport or a college photo ID card from a state-accredited college that contains an expiration date and signature.

WHAT IF THE ADDRESS ISN’T CURRENT ON THE ID? An acceptable photo ID does not have to include a current address.

THE NAME ISN’T AN EXACT MATCH: The name on a photo ID need not exactly match the name used to vote. For example, an ID that says “Sue Doe” can be used by registered voter “Susan Doe.” However, a person who’s legally changed his or her name must present an ID with the new name.

NO PHOTO ID: A resident can get a free voter photo ID from the local Division of Motor Vehicles by providing a Social Security number as well as an original document (birth certificate, certificate of citizenship, certificate of naturalization, Social Security card, military discharge papers, utility bills, pay stubs, insurance policies, mortgage papers, court order for adoption, divorce, name or gender change) containing the person’s name, date of birth, identity, proof of U.S. citizenship and residency. 

LACKING REQUIRED DOCS FOR ID: Complete a short form at the DMV stating that the documents needed to prove U.S. citizenship, name and date of birth are unavailable and require a fee to obtain.

PROVISIONAL BALLOT: If you get to the polls and don’t have a photo ID, don’t leave without voting. Voters have the right to request a provisional ballot and to show an ID by the end of the week.

Got it?

Now, “bring it.” 

Wisconsin Gazette’s mission is to help build a strong, informed community; promote social equality and justice; support immigration and electoral reform; expose government secrets and call out political corruption; celebrate and support the arts; and foster appreciation and respect for the state’s extraordinary natural resources.

Clinton defends progressive record against Sanders’ attack

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders opened up a new line of attack in the Democratic presidential primary on Feb. 3, putting Hillary Clinton on the defensive over her liberal credentials just days after she eked a slim victory in the Iowa caucuses.

Sanders, who has a sizable lead in the upcoming New Hampshire primary, rattled off a list of issues where he says Clinton isn’t in sync with the liberal wing of the party, including trade, Wall Street regulation, climate change, campaign finance and the 2002 authorization of the war in Iraq.

“I do not know any progressive who has a super PAC and takes $15 million from Wall Street,” Sanders said, during a candidate forum sponsored by CNN. “That’s just not progressive.”

Clinton moved quickly to defend her record, saying that under Sanders’ criteria President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and even the deceased Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone, a champion of liberal causes, would not be considered progressive.

“I know where I stand,” said Clinton. “But I don’t think it helps for the senator to be making those kinds of comparisons because clearly we all share the same hopes and aspirations for our country.”

She also pushed back on charges by Sanders and his allies that she cannot be trusted to regulate Wall Street because of the millions in speaking fees she made from the industry before announcing her presidential bid. An Associated Press analysis of public disclosure forms and records released by her campaign found that Clinton made $9 million from appearances sponsored by banks, insurance companies, hedge funds, private equity firms and real estate businesses.

Clinton said she was still deciding whether to run for president when she accepted the appearances

“I don’t know,” she said, when asked why she was paid such a high speaking fee. “That is what they offered.”

The back-and-forth on progressive credentials was the latest example of tensions between Clinton and Sanders as the race nears the Feb. 9 New Hampshire primary. The Democratic rivals are expected to appear at a debate on Thursday night and both camps have quarreled over the timing and locations of three debates planned for later this spring.

Clinton has questioned Sanders’ commitment to gun control and whether his proposal to create a universal health care system might endanger Obama’s signature health care law. Sanders, meanwhile, casts Clinton as an establishment figure and an inconsistent champion of liberal causes such as the environment, trade and campaign finance reform.

Speaking at a town hall meeting in Derry, New Hampshire earlier in the day, the former secretary of state called Sanders attacks on her ideology a “low blow,” before listing a series of liberal accomplishments that she described as progressive, including her work on expanding access to children’s health insurance, advocating for women and gay people and pushing for gun control measures.

“We’ve been fighting the progressive fight and getting results for people for years,” Clinton said. “I hope we keep it on the issues. Because if it’s about our records, hey, I’m going to win by a landslide.”

But Clinton’s team clearly sees an opening in Sanders’ comment. On Twitter, Clinton’s top spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri compared it to the moment in 2008 when President Barack Obama said during a debate that Clinton was “likable enough,” which prompted criticism from Clinton supporters.

The attack came from a comment Clinton made at a campaign event in September, when she was describing tax cuts passed under former President George W. Bush and noted that she’s occasionally been called a moderate. “I plead guilty,” she told the crowd in Columbus, Ohio.

Sanders cited her words in a Wednesday evening news conference in Concord, before noting that she has done some “progressive things” like advocating for children.

“This is not a low blow. There’s nothing wrong with people who are moderates. Some of my best friends are moderates,” he said. “All I was doing was repeating what she actually said.”

Sanders’ razor-thin loss in the Iowa caucuses Monday, and his formidable lead in New Hampshire polls, have heightened the possibility that the two remaining Democrats will be involved in a protracted fight for the nomination.

“We are in this until the convention,” Sanders told reporters on Tuesday. He said the narrow Iowa outcome showed his campaign’s ability to take on Clinton’s vast political network and address doubts among voters about his electability.

Clinton acknowledged that she yet to win over broad swaths of the party, particularly younger voters. In Iowa, Sanders won 84 percent of voters under age 30 and 58 percent of those aged 30-44 according to entrance polls.

“I respect the fact that I have work to do,” said Clinton. “They don’t have to be for me, I will be for them.” 

Activists predict abortion to be hot topic in 2016 campaigns

With a deeper-than-ever split between Republicans and Democrats over abortion, activists on both sides of the debate foresee a 2016 presidential campaign in which the nominees tackle the volatile topic more aggressively than in past elections.

Friction over the issue also is likely to surface in key Senate races. And the opposing camps will be further energized by Republican-led congressional investigations of Planned Parenthood and by Supreme Court consideration of tough anti-abortion laws in Texas.

“It’s an amazing convergence of events,” said Charmaine Yoest, CEO of the anti-abortion group Americans United for Life. “We haven’t seen a moment like this for 40 years.”

In the presidential race, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton is a longtime defender of abortion rights and has voiced strong support for Planned Parenthood — a major provider of abortions, health screenings and contraceptives — it is assailed by anti-abortion activists and Republican officeholders.

In contrast, nearly all of the GOP candidates favor overturning the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide. Some of the top contenders – including Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio – disapprove of abortions even in cases of rape and incest.

“We may very well have the most extreme Republican presidential nominee since Roe – a nominee who’s not in favor of abortion in any possible way,” said Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List. The organization, which supports female candidates who back abortion rights, says it is en route to breaking its fundraising records. A similar claim is made by some anti-abortion political action groups.

What’s changed for this election? One factor is the increased polarization of the two major parties. Only a handful of anti-abortion Democrats and abortion-rights Republicans remain in Congress, and recent votes attempting to ban late-term abortions and halt federal funding to Planned Parenthood closely followed party lines.

Another difference: Republicans in the presidential field and in Congress seem more willing than in past campaigns to take the offensive on abortion-related issues. Past nominees George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney opposed abortion but were not as outspoken as some of the current GOP candidates.

“Abortion will bubble over into the general election,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, which supports female candidates opposed to abortion. “If you don’t know how to handle this issue, you will be eviscerated.”

As the campaign unfolds, other factors will help keep the abortion debate in the spotlight.

The Supreme Court will be hearing arguments, probably in March, regarding a Texas law enacted in 2013 that would force numerous abortion clinics to close. One contested provision requires abortion facilities to be constructed like surgical centers; another says doctors performing abortions at clinics must have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

The Texas dispute will have echoes in other states as social conservatives lobby for more laws restricting abortion. Americans United for Life plans a multistate push for a package of bills called the Infants’ Protection Project; one measure would ban abortions performed because of fetal abnormalities such as Down syndrome while another would ban abortions after five months of pregnancy.

Also unfolding during the campaign will be a new investigation launched by House Republicans to examine the practices of Planned Parenthood and other major abortion providers. The panel’s chair, Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, says its work will likely continue past Election Day.

The investigation — denounced by Democrats as a partisan witch hunt — is among several congressional and state probes resulting from the release of undercover videos made by anti-abortion activists. They claim the videos show Planned Parenthood officials negotiating the sale of fetal tissue in violation of federal law; Planned Parenthood denies any wrongdoing and says the programs in question at a handful of its clinics entailed legal donations of fetal tissue.

Cruz is among many Republicans who have already passed judgment on Planned Parenthood, calling it “an ongoing criminal enterprise.” He welcomed the endorsement of anti-abortion activist Troy Newman, who helped orchestrate the undercover video operation.

Donald Trump, who leads the GOP presidential polls, has been harder to pin down on the issue. He describes himself as “pro-life” and open to defunding Planned Parenthood, while acknowledging that he held different views in the past.

Planned Parenthood’s leaders say a majority of U.S. voters oppose efforts to cut off its federal funding, most of which subsidizes non-abortion health services for patients on Medicaid. Planned Parenthood’s political action fund hopes to spend a record amount – more than $15 million – on election-related advocacy.

The fund’s executive vice president, Dawn Laguens, contends that some GOP presidential hopefuls, including Cruz and Rubio, may have hurt their general election prospects by making strong bids for anti-abortion votes in the primaries.

“They’ve gone so far out on the limb that they won’t be able to crawl back,” she said.

National polls over the years show the American public deeply divided on abortion. An Associated Press-GfK poll released Dec. 22 found 58 percent of U.S. adults saying abortion should be legal in most or all cases, and 39 percent saying it should be illegal in most or all cases. Forty-five percent viewed Planned Parenthood favorably; 30 percent unfavorably.

Abortion and Planned Parenthood are likely to surface as divisive issues in several of the races that will decide control of the Senate.

New Hampshire features an intriguing race between two women. Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, a supporter of abortion rights, hopes to unseat GOP incumbent Kelly Ayotte, who is endorsed by anti-abortion groups and favors halting Planned Parenthood’s federal funding.

Other key Senate races likely to feature sharp divisions over abortion include those in Pennsylvania, Nevada, Wisconsin and the crucial presidential battleground of Ohio, where GOP incumbent Rob Portman is expected to be challenged by former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland.

Money, that’s what they want | 2016ers try political alchemy to turn emails into cash

When it comes to raising money by email, everybody’s got an angle. Some of the “ask” strategies being employed by the 2016 presidential candidates:

ENTER TO WIN

Who doesn’t love a shot at winning something? Ted Cruz invited supporters to “come shooting with me.” It was free to enter the contest to win a shooting outing with the Texas senator, but Cruz told supporters: “After you’ve entered, make a generous Shoot With Ted contribution of $35, $50, $100 or more to my campaign.” Jeb Bush threw a $3 contest promising that three winners would get a photo of Bush and his father “battling it out on the tennis court,” signed by both the candidate and the former president.

FAKE DEADLINES

Tuesday’s end-of-quarter fundraising deadline is the real deal. The candidates all have to report how much cash they’ve raised during the quarter and then face judgment on what those numbers say about their viability. But, hey, why wait for a real deadline when you can make up one? Marco Rubio’s campaign urged supporters to help raise $44,000 in a day in honor of his 44th birthday. Columba Bush asked people to contribute to her husband in the first 24 hours of his campaign because “everyone is watching to see how much support we have out the gate.”

PIVOT OFF THE NEWS

Republican candidates turned last week’s Supreme Court rulings in support of the president’s health care law and same-sex marriage into a barrage of fundraising emails. One Rand Paul subject line on the health care ruling: “I’m afraid this is bad news, Fellow Conservative.” Rick Santorum took aim at the gay marriage ruling in a fundraising email urging supporters to help rescue America because “the relentless liberal agenda knows no pause.” $100, please.

FAMILY AFFAIR

Candidates trot out glowing endorsements from spouses and kids to gin up cash. Rick Perry’s wife, Anita, told supporters: “He’s the most principled man I’ve ever known” — and please donate to “have a front row seat to history.”

BASH THE MEDIA

Republicans love to convert press coverage that they consider unfavorable into cash. Rubio turned a story about the parking tickets his family had incurred into a lament over the “silly season” in politics and a plea for donations to help stay focused on “what really matters.” Because nothing focuses the mind, apparently, like money.

SIZE COUNTS

Big contributions are nice, but the little ones add up — and can say something about the depth of support for a candidate. Bernie Sanders made a decidedly lowball pitch as a way of making a statement in his Democratic campaign. “Stand up to the Super PAC attacking us by making a $3 contribution to our campaign today, and send a powerful message that you have had enough of the billionaire class buying elections,” he wrote.

DON’T ASK

Sometimes, it’s nice to check in with supporters without hitting them up for cash. Supporters are more likely to keep opening a candidate’s emails if it’s not always about the money. There’s no purchase necessary to enter Hillary Rodham Clinton’s contest to win dinner with the Democratic candidate, for example. And Carly Fiorina’s campaign sent out a chatty email from her friend and former business colleague Deb Bowker describing the Republican candidate as “a strong, determined, optimistic woman with a heart filled with a passion for service.” There’s no “ask” in either email. But recipients will surely be hearing more.

2016 Ticker: Are the early primary states losing clout?

Few states have shaped presidential politics like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

By hosting the nation’s first presidential primaries and caucuses, the states have heaped political and financial rewards for decades on successful candidates and hastened the end for underachievers. Yet their clout may be declining in 2016.

Campaign aides and veteran political operatives expect the Republicans’ next primary season to extend well beyond the first three states, thanks to an explosion of well-financed super PACs, a robust stable of candidates and changes in the election calendar that could make the 2016 GOP primary season one of the most competitive in history.

That drawn-out scenario is despite the wishes of the Republican National Committee, which recently changed rules with the aim of giving the eventual nominee a quicker and easier path to the general election.

While there is little competition expected on the Democratic side, the Republican primary is “shaping up to be the ultimate political marathon,” said Phil Musser, a GOP consultant and veteran of presidential politics. He suggested candidates might not get the “slingshot effect” from early state victories that they once might have.

Ronald Weiser, former finance chairman of the Republican National Committee, agrees. “The early states are still important, but they’re not critical anymore,” he said. “You’re not gone if you don’t do well in those first couple primaries.”

By nature of being first, however, Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina will continue to consume much of the political world’s attention over the coming 11 months. Those states, along with Nevada, are the only Republican primary contests allowed next February, according to party rules that outline strict penalties for states that try to jump ahead.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker spent much of March trekking through all three states, as did other presumed candidates who are aggressively hiring state-based political operatives.

Bush told South Carolina Republicans their state is critical because it holds “the first big primary,” a nod to a projected turnout that dwarfs participation in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. Visiting New Hampshire recently, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul predicted the primary season could “go on for quite a while,” but highlighted the momentum that the early states offer.

Yet those likely contenders and others are laying the groundwork to continue competing even if they stumble early.

While he faces hurdles in the early states, Bush is amassing considerable resources to go well beyond the early states – both through traditional fundraising and his allied super PAC. Walker’s travel schedule includes states voting later in primaries, his aides note. Paul has been organizing a political team both inside and outside the early voting states for several months.

And even before they formally announce their campaigns, many likely candidates already enjoy the backing of super PACs that can raise campaign cash with no limits.

At least 10 potential contenders are now backed by super PACs, or related organizations, that offer a financial safety net to help replace the fundraising boost traditionally earned from strong finishes in Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was the latest to join the super PAC club when an ally recently announced plans to run the organization.

Presidential super PACs did not exist at this point in the 2012 campaign. Once established, they showcased the ability of a few wealthy donors to sustain underdog candidates such as former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Conservative donor Foster Friess, who almost singlehandedly bankrolled Santorum’s super PAC in 2012, predicted an extended campaign this time because of the quality of the candidates.

“I don’t expect a clear leader to emerge until after South Carolina,” Friess said.

A compressed voting calendar, as well as natural geographic advantages for some candidates later on, also offers an incentive for some Republican candidates to stay in longer.

Several Southern states, including delegate-rich Texas, are expected to hold their elections March 1, when delegates will be awarded to candidates proportionally. At least three likely competitors have strong ties to Texas – one of its senators, Ted Cruz; the state’s former governor, Rick Perry; and Bush, a Texas native as well as a brother of the former governor and president and a son of the former president and GOP leader.

Both Rubio and Bush have won statewide office in Florida, which is expected to hold its primary March 15, the first day that states can host winner-take-all contests. The final primaries or caucuses must be held by June 3, with a Republican presidential nominating convention set for July 18.

Candidates need to win early to show they can go the distance, says Phil Cox, executive director for a super PAC backing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Still, he says, there is less incentive for candidates to drop out early than in the past.

Even Republicans in early states acknowledge the shifting landscape. But they warned candidates not to take those states too lightly.

Candidates who think they can just survive the early rounds and fight through the slog will be following “a really risky strategy without precedent,” said Fergus Cullen, former New Hampshire GOP chairman. “A win here is going to mean something.”

Editori’s note: Associated Press writers Jill Colvin in Linden, N.J., Bill Barrow in Columbia, S.C., and Holly Ramer in Concord, N.H., contributed to this report.


Election watch: A year before 2016, Iowa attracts long-shots

Soft laughter rippled through the audience in an Iowa church meeting room when a woman punctuated her question to the keynote speaker, Bernie Sanders, with, “when you’re president.”

The reaction was a gentle acknowledgment that the Vermont senator, whose self-described socialist positions appeal to the hardest-core liberals, is a long shot for the Oval Office.

Yet while Democrats and Republicans are waiting for Hillary Rodham Clinton, Jeb Bush and other major prospects to formally kick off the 2016 race in the state with the first presidential caucuses, other lesser known or more unlikely aspirants are already active in Iowa, letting everyone know they’re available.

They’re following a long-established ritual, based on the notion that even far-fetched dreams can come true in a place where friendly people will come out to hear candidates and the media is ever alert for political tremors.

Along with Sanders, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley among Democrats, and neurosurgeon Ben Carson, a Republican, are among the non-short-listers making contacts in the state, giving speeches and road-testing their messages.

Most don’t actually say they’re running. They’re just saying hello.

“I don’t know if it’s an advantage as much as it is laying down a marker, starting to bend the arc of the conversation,” said Sue Dvorsky, former Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman.

And this being campaign-steeped Iowa, most seem to draw an audience.

On a two-day mid-December trip, Sanders, who is among the Senate’s most liberal members, made a series of stops in which he touted expanding government regulation of banking, universal government-funded health care and a $15-per-hour minimum wage. Sanders is one of only two senators who don’t identify as Democrat or Republican, though he caucuses and votes with Senate Democrats.

Sanders, hunched over a hotel ballroom podium with his tussled shock of white hair, declared that it’s time to break up the nation’s big banks.

“If Teddy Roosevelt were alive today, he would say, and we should say, if these guys are too big to fail, they are too big to exist,” Sanders said.

Sanders’ populist pitch bears some resemblance to that of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the rising star of the Democratic left. But she has said she won’t run for president, leaving room for Sanders to hope.

Ron Rosenblatt, a financial services company owner, cheered Sanders along with about 150 invited Democrats in the Altoona hotel ballroom. “I like his ability to generate enthusiasm,” he said, but at 73, “he’s at an age that would make it difficult.”

O’Malley, known for defending gay marriage and repealing the death penalty, visited Iowa four times last year and contributed more than $45,000 to Iowa candidates and party organizations, which made him friends in convenient places. Governors often make good presidential candidates, and O’Malley, 51, would be one of the few in the Democratic field, fitting somewhere to Clinton’s left on the political spectrum.

Webb, a former secretary of the Navy, visited in September before announcing his plans to explore a candidacy in November. He would slot to Clinton’s right.

Clinton visited Iowa twice in 2014 to campaign for Iowa Democrats, but has sent few public signals about her plans, even though most expect her to run.

Although national polls 13 months before the Iowa caucuses reflect mostly name familiarity, about 60 percent of likely Democratic primary voters say they would vote for Clinton. Sanders, O’Malley and Webb combine for less than 10 percent.

Long shot Republicans have also been busy in Iowa, along with the better known names such as New Jersey’s Chris Christie and 2012 Iowa caucuses winner Rick Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has stepped up his Iowa travel, as has former Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Newcomer Carson, 63, a retired Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon who was raised in inner city Detroit, has impressed crowds of curious Republicans on his two trips. Carson, who is African American, ignited curiosity among conservatives after he criticized political correctness, the federal debt and the health care overhaul during the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast, with President Barack Obama in attendance.

While Carson isn’t well known, other little candidates wound up eventually getting attention here in 2008, such as businessman Herman Cain, before eventually falling.

Providing hope to all longshots are Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, who won the 2008 Republican caucuses, and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who came from nowhere in 2004 to challenge eventual Democratic nominee John Kerry.

But for every Huckabee, said former GOP chairman Matt Strawn, “There is a Tommy Thompson, Tom Tancredo or Chris Dodd,” referring to Iowa competitors who never broke through.

Physician Christi Taylor of Waukee, who heard one of Carson’s talks, said she was “blown away” by his remarks about personal responsibility.

Now she’s part of an effort to draft Carson to run. “As someone who likes to evaluate facts, I want to pick the right person, not who has the biggest name in lights,” Taylor said.