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Essential Politics: Rubio rises, Clinton hangs on

Essential Politics: Rubio rises, Clinton hangs on
(LAT)

With the Iowa caucuses behind us and New Hampshire's primary just days away, the primary races on both sides have suddenly become much more clear.

On the GOP side, the party establishment has started to consolidate around Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who is rising in several New Hampshire polls. If Rubio continues his upward trend, the three establishment-friendly governors (current and former) in the race -- Chris Christie, John Kasich and Jeb Bush -- will have little chance. They're fighting back hard, as my colleague Chris Megerian chronicled.

On the Democratic side, the near-tie in Iowa was a big moral victory for Sen. Bernie Sanders. But moral victories don't win nominations.

Sanders will almost certainly score a real victory over Hillary Clinton on Tuesday in New Hampshire. But he still faces the same problem he has had since he began -- he has to win non-white voters to prevail in a minority-heavy Democratic Party. The first real test will come in Nevada on Feb. 20, and even as they fight it out in the New England snow, both sides are pouring resources into that next battleground.

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Good afternoon, I'm David Lauter, Washington Bureau chief, welcome to the Friday edition of our Essential Politics newsletter, where we review the events of the past week on the campaign trail and single out for attention stories that provided particular insight and are worth a weekend read if you've missed them.

Trump's loss in Iowa answered some key questions about the race, as Michael Finnegan wrote. We now know that his lack of organization on the ground and failure to invest in the infrastructure of a modern political campaign really do make a difference, even for a celebrity. Unless he changes his approach, we should expect him to continue to underperform his standing in polls.

Trump's problems are good news for Senators Ted Cruz and Rubio. The Florida senator is the hot candidate this week, but as Cathy Decker and Lisa Mascaro analyzed the race, they noted that there are still some big hurdles in Rubio's way.

One thing he does not have to worry about is the extremely crowded nature of the GOP field -- candidates are dropping out rapidly. One who is still hanging in, but perhaps not for much longer, is Carly Fiorina. Here's Seema Mehta on Fiorina's fade.

Finally, Decker analyzed two important elements of the GOP race: Even in New Hampshire, far from the Mexican border, immigration dominates the GOP debate. That's true despite the fact that only a little more than 10% of GOP voters say the issue is their top priority. Her analysis explains why. Decker also looked at the sometimes apocalyptic pitches that GOP candidates are making to angry and aggrieved voters.

Over on the Democratic side,  Evan Halper examined why Clinton can't attract support from young feminists, a key problem for her as she struggles with Sanders' insurgency.

Decker looked at how the ideological fight raging in the Democratic Party mirrors a similar battle that has pulled the GOP to the right over the last decade.

And Kate Linthicum examined new polling data that indicate a surge of Latino voting in the Iowa caucus this year.

Lastly, does the campaign approach of Trump -- and Rubio, to a lesser extent -- mean the death of retail politics? A lot of New Hampshire political activists fear that could be the case, Mike Memoli found. The TV-heavy campaigns of those two GOP front-runners undermine the stock in trade that New Hampshire and Iowa can offer.

That wraps up this week. My colleague, Christina Bellantoni, will be back Monday with the weekday edition of Essential Politics. Until then, keep track of all the developments in the 2016 campaign with our Trail Guide, at our politics page and on Twitter at @latimespolitics.

Send your comments, suggestions and news tips to politics@latimes.com.

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