Republican candidates for president hammered one another on illegal immigration Friday in a messy free-for-all as each sought to undercut key rivals in the final stretch to Monday’s Iowa caucuses.
Donald Trump was 1,400 miles away in New Hampshire, but the issue he put atop the GOP campaign agenda last summer dominated the race as opponents Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and others dashed across Iowa.
A final flurry of new attack ads on television heightened the unpredictability of the contest, with volleys among multiple candidates risking all manner of unintended consequences.
When they lived in California, Gabe and Jaime Searles never had a chance to see a parade of presidential candidates up close. But they moved to Iowa nearly four years ago and are taking full advantage of the attention that White House hopefuls lavish on this state.
On Saturday, the couple and their three children attended rallies for Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and former Hewlett-Packard Chief Executive Carly Fiorina. They’ve seen Dr. Ben Carson, businessman-turned-reality television star Donald Trump, Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. On Monday, they plan to take in a rally with Sen. Rand Paul.
“In California, we never had this opportunity at all,” said Gabe Searles, 36, a guitar teacher and graphics designer, after seeing Cruz speak at a hotel in this college town about 30 miles north of Des Moines. “It’s crazy. It’s a little overwhelming, but at the same time, that’s what’s made us get out here with the family. This is sort of once-in-a-lifetime – every four years.
GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio blasted rival Ted Cruz on Saturday, saying that his fellow senator was distorting Rubio's own words in an act of “desperation” and appeared to be wilting under the stress of campaigning.
“It sounds like he’s under a lot of pressure and maybe not reacting very well to it, which is problematic because presidents are under pressure every day,” Rubio told reporters on a balcony overlooking the football stadium at Iowa State University.
Rubio was responding to a mailer Cruz sent to Iowans that appeared intended to shame them into caucusing. It listed voters' names alongside a poor voting record, as well as the names and purported voting records of their neighbors. The mailer urges them to caucus on Monday and threatens to send a follow-up notice with an updated voting grade.
Donald Trump leads the Republican field as the candidates move into the home stretch for Monday's Iowa caucuses, according to the state's most authoritative poll.
The Iowa Poll, sponsored by the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg, finds Trump ahead with 28% of the vote, followed by Sen. Ted Cruz at 23%. Sen. Marco Rubio sits in third place, at 15%.
Although many polls try to survey Iowa's voters in advance of the caucuses, which kick off the nomination process, the Iowa Poll, directed by Ann Selzer, has attained preeminence because of its history of accurately forecasting many of the results in recent election cycles.
Jan. 30, 2016, 2:52 p.m.
I'll be the greatest jobs producer God ever created.
Donald Trump in Clinton, Iowa, on Saturday. Trump is locked in a tight race with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in Monday's Iowa caucuses.
Private jet travel is the last thing any candidate would highlight in a normal presidential campaign.
This one is not normal.
Republican Donald Trump swooped back into Iowa on Saturday with a dramatic fly-by to show off his 757 to cheering supporters awaiting him in a chilly airplane hangar on the outskirts of this small city on the Mississippi River.
The campaigns of the Democratic front-runners waged a public back-and-forth Saturday over the possibility of additional debates well into the spring as both seek to gain an edge just two days before the Iowa caucuses.
Hillary Clinton and her chief rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, have agreed in principle to work out details of three spring debates, including a May date in California, Sanders' campaign said. Clinton's campaign would only say that discussions were underway.
The debate over the debates themselves has been an ongoing subplot during the Democratic race, with the slim schedule of six sanctioned debates widely seen initially as a way to protect Clinton from needlessly stumbling before the general election. But as Sanders gained in the polls and Clinton acquitted herself well during the debates, that calculation appeared to have shifted.
Sen. Ted Cruz argued Saturday that he was the sole candidate in the GOP field who could fundamentally change the dysfunction in the nation’s capital, making his closing argument to Iowa voters ahead of Monday's caucuses.
“If you think things are going great in Washington, that we need to keep headed in the same basic direction, just kind of fiddle around the edges, than I ain't you’re guy,” Cruz told hundreds of people overflowing out of a hotel event room.
He charged that career politicians, lobbyists and special interests run Washington, with little care for ordinary Americans.
Hillary Clinton was joined Saturday by Gabrielle Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman who was grievously wounded in a mass shooting five years ago, as Clinton touted her support for stronger gun control measures.
"The facts cry out for action," Clinton told the crowd at Iowa State University in Ames, just two days before the Iowa caucuses kick off the presidential nominating contests.
Clinton, the former secretary of State, has criticized her chief rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, as insufficiently tough on guns. Sanders hails from a state with a strong rural hunting culture and has a record of supporting some gun laws, though he also frequently notes that he has a D-minus rating from the National Rifle Assn.