Jeb Bush defends saying 'anchor babies' as Democrats attack him

Welcome to Trail Guide, your daily run along the road to the White House. It's Thursday, Aug. 20, and this is what we're watching:

  • Jeb Bush  stands by his use of the term "anchor babies," prompting criticism from Democrats.
  • Hillary Rodham Clinton is looking at a trust deficit in key battleground states.
  • Bush and others talk up vouchers and school choice, and talk down Common Core , at a forum on Wednesday.
  • Is shouting down a presidential candidate a new  phenomenon? The Times' Dexter Thomas and political reporter Kurtis Lee discuss 
  • Martin O'Malley is trying to stir up excitement in California for his bid.
  • Marco Rubio  delivers remarks on his middle-class economic agenda at the Detroit Economic Club.

Martin O'Malley visits with young Democrats in Los Angeles

 (Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times)

(Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times)

The downtown hotel ballroom was far from filled to capacity. The applause? Tepid, for the most part.

Martin O'Malley arrived in Los Angeles on Thursday night to address the Young Democrats of America convention, where many roaming the corridors of the Millennium Biltmore Hotel had donned stickers in support of Hillary Rodham Clinton, the commanding front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination.

“There is a tremendous generational shift going on in our country, and that is why I wanted to be here,” said the former Maryland governor. “And sadly most of the established leaders of our own party don't even see that it's coming. What does it tell you that six months out from the first primaries and caucuses ... I am the only one of our presidential candidates that took the time and wanted to be here with you?”

O'Malley, who in an average of several national polls is registering around 2%, delved into his stump speech, calling for, among other things, an increased federal minimum wage and immigration reform that allows citizenship for young people brought to the country illegally.

While his populist message is one that echoes that of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, he's failed to catch on with similar support from liberals looking for an alternative to Clinton. Earlier this month Sanders held a rally near USC that drew nearly 27,500 people -- among the largest political rallies of the 2016 cycle.

In a brief interview following his address, O'Malley -- optimistic and charismatic -- shook off the fact of his long-shot candidacy.

“When we announced in this race it wasn't because I thought I'd be at 50% at the announcement,” said O'Malley, noting increases in polling numbers in some early-nominating states. “I've been in uphill battles before ... I actually do better in tough fights.”

When asked whether the controversy surrounding Clinton's use of a private email server hurts her candidacy, O'Malley -- who did not mention her by name in his address -- declined chime in.

“I'd like to see us start having debates,” he said. “In the absence of debates then we are left with the daily news about our contest being all about questions that only she and her lawyers can answer about her email. I don't really have an answer for that.”

O'Malley's visit to Los Angeles came on the heels of a stop in San Francisco, where he sat in a panel discussion with local tech leaders.

As he wrapped his speech inside the Biltmore ballroom, O'Malley urged the young people in attendance to continue in civic engagement -- and, perhaps, even help out his campaign.

“Within this very hall,” he said, “are the leaders of the Democratic Party.”

The perils of high school Spanish and making the grade: Republicans discuss their favorite teachers

For the half-dozen GOP presidential contenders who were quizzed about their education platforms at the New Hampshire Education Summit on Wednesday, there was a little extra credit: personal moments to pay tribute to the teachers who influenced them and their trajectories. What they had to say:

Jeb Bush qualified his experience at the famed Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., as "a perpetual headache for me. It was so hard; the bar was so high." Bush highlighted his 10th-grade Spanish teacher, who assigned classic works in Spanish, saying it taught him to set goals. "We were reading Cervantes, 'Don Quixote' -- these classical works in Spanish. It was impossible. This teacher just said you're gonna do it, you have to do it -- and it gave me a sense that high, lofty expectations really matter."

Carly Fiorina reflected on her decision to major in medieval philosophy at Stanford University. "Why the heck was I a medieval philosophy major? Because I had this professor named Mr. Bernstein, and he got that look in his eye and he got me all excited about medieval philosophy. We can never ever lose that human connection. That spark is what causes a kid to say, 'I can learn. I'm excited about this.'"

Scott Walker said he recently visited Plainfield, Iowa, where he met with his third-grade teacher, Betty Balsley. "She really cared for me. She showed this emotional attachment, which is really important in elementary school -- that feeling that I like school because I like my teacher, and that's what Mrs. Balsley did to me. In doing that, it offered her the opportunity to inspire us, not just to want to do better in school but to want to do better in life."

Chris Christie credited his fifth-grade teacher for teaching him how to write: "In walked a fifth-grade Chris Christie who had gotten nothing but A's from kindergarten through fourth grade. I walked in and gave my first essay to her and got my essay back and it was a C." Christie approached the teacher after class, saying, "I've never gotten a C on anything in my life, and so you need to reread this because it's really good," to which she replied, "You want to be an A student in this classroom, you're gonna have to stop talking and start working." "She was tough but she was really smart," he said.

John Kasich deflected the question and instead had a snappy line for teachers unions: "If I were, not president, if I were king in America, I would abolish all teachers' lounges where they sit together and worry about how 'woe is us.'"

The only other candidate at the forum, Bobby Jindal, wasn't asked the question, but during his interview he emphasized his stance against Common Core, saying, "I don't think the federal government should be adopting one-size-fits-all-standards."

Jeb Bush stands by his 'anchor babies' comment

Jeb Bush is standing by his use of the term "anchor babies" to describe children born in the U.S. to immigrants in the country illegally, the latest turn in the debate over immigration that's at the forefront on the campaign trail this summer.

During a radio interview earlier this week, Bush used the phrase, drawing ire by many who view it as derogatory. While campaigning in New Hampshire on Thursday, the Republican presidential hopeful was asked whether he regretted saying it.

"I don't," Bush said. "Do you have a better term? You give me a better term and I'll use it."

Immigrant advocates and leading Democrats quickly seized on Bush's comments, with Hillary Rodham Clinton tweeting several possible alternatives to the controversial phrase Thursday:

"The term 'anchor baby' is so vile we don't even have an equivalent for it in Spanish," Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Whittier) said in a conference call with journalists hosted by Democratic Party leaders Thursday.

During the original radio interview, Bush called for "better enforcement so that you don't have these, you know, 'anchor babies,' as they're described, coming into the country." It's a phrase that has been used by other Republican presidential candidates in recent days, including front-runner Donald Trump, to talk about birthright citizenship for children born in the U.S. to immigrants in the country without legal status.

Earlier this week, Trump issued a lengthy immigration policy proposal that would end birthright citizenship, which he says encourages immigrants to enter the country unlawfully to have children.

Bush has defended birthright citizenship, saying it is a constitutional right that should be protected, although he has called for stricter penalties for those who abuse it.

The uproar over Bush's comments underscore the tricky line he must walk as Trump and other GOP candidates track to the right on issues such as immigration. Bush, who has raised more money the other GOP candidates and was seen as the likely front-runner for the nomination before Trump's unlikely rise in the polls, has sought to portray himself as more moderate than candidates like Trump while also trying to appeal to his party's staunchly conservative base.

Democrats have seized on that dilemma and have sought to draw parallels between Bush and Trump. Democratic National Committee Chair and Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Thursday that Bush's comment makes him "no better than Trump or the rest of the Republicans running for president."

At the campaign stop on Thursday, Bush appeared annoyed by multiple questions about his use of the term.

"I said it's commonly referred to as that," Bush said of the phrase. "I didn't use it as my own language. What we ought to do is -- do you want to get to the policy for a second? I think that people born in the country ought to be American citizens. OK? Now we got that over with."

#BlackLivesMatter are hardly the first hecklers on the trail

In recent months protesters have been making headlines, interrupting presidential candidates as they deliver stump speeches all across the country.

But it's not a new phenomenon.

In a conversation, Times reporters Dexter Thomas and Kurtis Lee explore how activists -- from Black Lives Matter to supporters of immigration reform -- have already shaped the 2016 presidential election.

“It's altering how candidates have to address certain issue and say certain things,” says Lee from his reporting. “Candidates have to go into different campaign rallies ... being ready to address the issues when people raise concerns.”

Read more

Martin O'Malley assails Democrats for 'protecting' Hillary Clinton

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley was in California on Thursday and spoke with The Times' Mark Z. Barabak in San Francisco. O'Malley will travel to Los Angeles this evening to address the Young Democrats of America convention.

Throwback Thursday — circa 1984

'This bird is seriously dangerous, but beautiful'

Time magazine + Donald Trump + bald eagle = Internet explosion. The only party not relishing all the attention online today is the bird.

New poll finds Clinton and Trump leading primaries in swing states

A new swing state poll has some relatively good news for Hillary Rodham Clinton and Donald Trump.

The Quinnipiac polls find both front-runners winning their party's primaries in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

This is only relatively good news because the poll also finds they have the worst favorability ratings in their fields, winning low scores on trust and honesty. (In Pennsylvania, 63% of voters said Clinton is not honest and trustworthy.)

Assistant polling director Peter Brown notes Vice President Joe Biden might want to take a glance at the results, as he deliberates on a run.

"In head-to-head match-ups against the three leading contenders for the Republican nomination, he runs as well or slightly better than [Clinton] does," Brown notes.

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People like to say 'undocumented' because it's politically correct. I'll use the word 'anchor baby.'
Donald Trump at a town hall event in New Hampshire on Thursday evening. Read more about Trump's first town hall at the link below.

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Martin O'Malley is trying to broaden support in California

 (Ethan Miller / Getty Images)

(Ethan Miller / Getty Images)

A Democratic presidential hopeful will be in California on Thursday -- and it won't be Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley will hold public events in San Francisco and Los Angeles. First, he will address the Civic Tech Panel in San Francisco. Then he'll travel to downtown Los Angeles to speak at the Young Democrats of America convention.

With little name identification, O'Malley has had trouble breaking through. An average of several national polls show his support registering at about 2%.

Despite O'Malley's liberal roots, Democrats -- looking for an alternative to Clinton -- appear to be flocking more toward Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent seeking the nomination and wielding a populist message.