Welcome to Trail Guide, your host through the wilds of the 2016 presidential campaign. It's Thursday, Jan. 7, and here's what we're talking about:
- Planned Parenthood endorses Hillary Clinton's bid for the White House
- Billionaire donor Ron Burkle assesses Clinton's campaign and his longtime relationship with Bill Clinton in a rare interview
- Clinton assails the GOP over comments about immigrants in a pitch to Asian American voters
- John McCain is weighing in on Ted Cruz's citizenship
- Donald Trump's past statements have Republicans committed to putting down a marker for the party on healthcare
Bill Clinton has avoided talking about Donald Trump in the few days he’s been on the campaign trail – until now.
On Thursday, while in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the former president said there will be “plenty” of time to talk about Trump should the billionaire businessman become the GOP nominee.
“If he wins the Republican nomination, we’ll have plenty of time to talk,” said Clinton, responding to a reporter’s question about Trump’s recent comments criticizing Clinton’s sexual history.
“I have no interest in getting involved in their politics or doing anything except trying to help Hillary,” Clinton said.
After Hillary Clinton said Trump had a “penchant for sexism,” Trump has focused his attention on the former president’s past sexual transgressions.
Trump, who has attacked Mexican immigrants, women and Muslims with caustic statements, has defended going after Bill Clinton.
“The ‘penchant for sexism’ was exactly her words, and I just turned them,” he told reporters recently.
Planned Parenthood announced it has broken with its long-standing tradition of not endorsing candidates in the presidential primaries to back Hillary Clinton.
The organization is making the move as the Clinton campaign seeks to consolidate support ahead of the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. A loss in either state would be a considerable setback for the front-runner in her bid to lock up the Democratic nomination early and focus on the general election. Polls show Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont slightly ahead of Clinton in New Hampshire and within striking distance in Iowa, even as he trails far behind in many of the states that follow.
The move by the Planned Parenthood Action Fund is particularly notable because its agenda is also embraced by Clinton’s rivals in the Democratic contest. It signals the organization’s anxiety about the general election, when the Democratic nominee is expected to face a Republican candidate hostile to abortion rights and funding for the women’s health services Planned Parenthood provides. The decision to give the endorsement was made Sunday in Manchester, N.H., and announced by the group on Thursday afternoon.
“It is unthinkable that our daughters and granddaughters would have fewer rights than my generation did, yet every single GOP candidate for president wants to erase decades of progress for women — pledging to cut access to Planned Parenthood, ban safe, legal abortion, and block health insurance coverage for birth control,” said a statement from Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund. “This is about so much more than Planned Parenthood. Healthcare for an entire generation is at stake.”
Clinton noted in a statement of her own that the endorsement came the same week that Congress passed a bill that would defund Planned Parenthood and roll back Obamacare. “Any of the Republican candidates will proudly sign that bill into law if they win,” she said. “We can’t let that happen.”
The tense relationship between Sen. John McCain, the Republican nominee in 2008, and Sen. Ted Cruz, who is seeking the GOP nomination this year, has been far from cordial, and now it’s seeping into the presidential race.
GOP front-runner Donald Trump has raised doubts about whether Cruz is eligible to become president because he was born in Canada. On Wednesday, McCain said Trump has raised a legitimate question.
“I think there is a question. I'm not a constitutional scholar on that, but I think it's worth looking into,” McCain told a Phoenix television station. “I don't think it's illegitimate to look into it."
McCain, a foreign policy hawk and member of the GOP establishment wing, has tussled with Cruz, who has upset both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate with tactics that critics have called selfish.
He held a 21-hour talkathon on the Senate floor in opposition to the Affordable Care Act and called leaders of his party “liars.”
McCain, in turn, has slammed Cruz and other Tea Party members for their firebrand tactics, once memorably denouncing them as "wacko birds."
In 2008, similar questions about McCain’s birth emerged because he was born in the Panama Canal Zone, then a U.S. territory, to parents stationed at a military base.
In 1964, Republican nominee Barry Goldwater also faced questions because he was born in Arizona before it became a state.
The Constitution requires presidents to be “natural-born citizens” and children of U.S. citizens are automatically granted citizenship even if they are born abroad.
Cruz was born in Canada, but his mother was an American citizen.
Still, Trump, who is trailing Cruz in Iowa, has said in several interviews this week that he hopes the Texas senator’s birth does not hurt the party’s chances this fall should he become the nominee.
“Republicans are going to have to ask themselves the question: ‘Do we want a candidate who could be tied up in court for two years?’ That’d be a big problem,” Trump said in an interview with the Washington Post.
Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton lashed out at the GOP presidential field on Thursday, arguing that their positions on immigration are at odds with the nation’s very founding as she courted Asian American voters.
“This is a lesson we would never dare to forget. We are a country built by the hard work of generations of immigrants, and we are stronger because of our diversity and our openness,” Clinton told hundreds of supporters gathered in a hotel ballroom here. “I really wish I didn’t have to stand here today and say any of this, but we are hearing a lot of hateful rhetoric on the campaign trail.”
She noted Republican candidates had called immigrants rapists and drug dealers, had used what some believe is a derogatory term for the children of those in the country illegally, had called for Muslims to be barred from entering the United States, and for applying a religious test for those seeking asylum from war-torn Syria.
“They forget a fundamental lesson about our great country: Being an open and tolerant society does not make us vulnerable,” Clinton said. “It’s at the core of our strength of who we are. It’s a creed as old as our nation’s founding.”
Clinton made these remarks in a city that is a major Asian American stronghold as she kicked off her effort to build a coalition of this fast-growing voter group that could prove to be a firewall in critical states in the general election.
Clinton was joined by prominent Asian American politicians such as former U.S. Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta, Rep. Judy Chu, California Treasurer John Chiang and California Controller Betty Yee.
Traditionally, Asian Americans have not received as much political attention as other minorities, such as Latino and African American voters. But as the nation’s fastest-growing population, according to the last census, that is changing.
Political columnist Cathleen Decker explained why this surging group of voters is critical in certain states, and Clinton’s general-election strategy.
Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign on Thursday will unveil its effort to organize Asian Americans in the San Gabriel Valley, an area with one of the densest concentrations of those voters in California. But the campaign's real targets are outside the state, in places where surging numbers of Asian voters have helped lead Democrats to victories in recent statewide races.
Those places include Virginia and Nevada, two hard-fought states that sided with President Obama in his successful campaigns for the White House and would have to be flipped by the Republican nominee to ensure a victory in November.
Clinton's early outreach to Asian voters is meant to help her construct a demographic firewall in those key states and any others that prove problematic if she is the Democratic nominee. California, a killing ground for Republican presidential candidates since 1992, is not expected to be among them.
The national battle for Asian voters is a replay of the decades-long fight for Latino voters, one that ended in a Democratic rout because of Republican policies that left the burgeoning voter group feeling unwanted, even disdained.
I think I’m much better looking. ... Look, Chris is a great guy. I like him. He’s got a great style about him, a great personality.
Vice President Joe Biden said he regrets his decision not to seek the Democratic nomination for president and that he thinks about it every day.
"But it was the right decision for my family and me," he explained to NBC Connecticut host Keisha Grant.
Biden wavered for most of the summer and into fall about whether to run against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. He announced Oct. 21 that he'd opted instead to spend time with his family — he had lost his son Beau Biden to brain cancer on May 30.
Now, he's focused on helping his party win the 2016 race. And he thinks both leading Democratic candidates have a shot.
"There's real robust debate between Hillary and Bernie," Biden said. "As there would've been if I was in the race."
He called the Republican race “very illuminating."
Businessman Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz dominate conversations and debates with confusing stances, he said.
"The kinds of things that Ted Cruz and Donald Trump were saying are so inconsistent," the vice president said.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has taken a harsher stance on immigration recently, attracting criticism from rival and immigration hard-liner Donald Trump. In an interview with CNN on his campaign bus Wednesday, Cruz said he based his decision on the fact that circumstances changed.
The senator previously had pushed for the H1B visa for high-tech workers to enter the country legally. But, he said, he now believes businesses are misusing the program to bring in low-skilled workers, firing U.S. employees and, "adding insult to injury, forcing the American workers to train their foreign replacements," he said.
"Any rational person responds to a change in circumstances. What's changed? We've seen a whole number of employers abusing the program," he told CNN.
He has said he'd like to see the visa program suspended.
Cruz, the front-runner in Iowa, also aimed to one-up Trump's plan to build a wall along the southern border and stop all immigration from Latin America.
"[Trump] has advocated allowing folks to come back in and become citizens," Cruz told voters in Iowa on Monday. "I oppose that.”
The 2016 presidential contest is focused on many substantive issues: The war on radical Islam. North Korea claiming that it just tested a hydrogen bomb. And an economy that has markedly improved but left many feeling left behind.
But American politics and those who cover it also enjoy a bit of silliness. This week’s was a turn to shoes. Men’s heeled boots to be exact.
A New York Times reporter tweeted out a picture of the stylish, black leather boots Republican Sen. Marco Rubio wore during a recent campaign swing through New Hampshire, which holds the first primary in the presidential nominating contest.
A tsunami followed. Reporters sussed out the make and price of the boots: Florsheims that sold for a little over $100. Some online commentators speculated that they were lifts – probably not necessary given the Florida senator’s 5-foot, 10-inch height. Rival candidates and their campaigns weighed in.
(Tyler is the communications director for the presidential campaign of Sen. Ted Cruz.)
Rival GOP presidential candidates Sen. Rand Paul and former Hewlett-Packard chief Carly Fiorina also poked fun on Twitter.
As Hillary Clinton and her surrogates scour the country for mega-donors, the one left-leaning billionaire they are not approaching is the one who knows the first couple more intimately than any of the others.
Ron Burkle figures that over the years, he's raised about $10 million for the Clintons at his sprawling Beverly Hills estate. After Bill Clinton left the White House, he and Burkle jetted around the world in an unconventional partnership that netted the former president about $15 million and won Burkle entree into the palaces and offices of world dignitaries. For years, when Clinton dropped into Los Angeles, he would only stay at “Ronnie's” place, Greenacres, once owned by silent film star Harold Lloyd. Clinton was fond of the home and its history.
People would expect Bill Clinton-style love and attention. That is not going to happen with her.
So what's Burkle done for the Clintons lately? Nothing.
“They never asked me for a penny,” he said of Hillary Clinton's campaign during a rare interview in his West Hollywood office that touched on his dim outlook toward Hillary as a candidate, Bill's post-presidential role with Burkle's investment firm and what, exactly, happened on those plane rides.
Even as congressional Republicans celebrated their latest symbolic jab at the Affordable Care Act, the GOP confronts an increasingly urgent challenge to develop a meaningful alternative in the face of Donald Trump’s enduring candidacy.
Nearly six years after the health law was enacted, the party still has no unifying healthcare platform. And if Trump extends his run atop the Republican presidential field, his unorthodox healthcare positions may soon define the GOP.