By the numbers
Welcome to Trail Guide, your daily blog on the 2016 presidential campaign. It's Friday, Sept. 18, and this is what we're watching:
- Sen. Barbara Boxer tells the Times' Seema Mehta that Carly Fiorina was the "most mean-spirited opponent I ever had"
- Donald Trump is drawing fire after letting an audience member's false assertion that President Obama is Muslim go unchallenged
- Conservative group Heritage Action is hosting a forum in South Carolina for GOP hopefuls, but Trump backed out
- Nancy Pelosi tells the Times she'd like to see more Democratic debates
- The Times' Kate Linthicum looks at the fight for Latino votes in South Carolina
- In Orange County, Calif., Gov. John Kasich tries to praise Latinos -- and ended up talking about tipping a hotel maid
- The California GOP convention has begun and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is there
Huckabee: Let's get the other candidates to drop out and back me!
Mike Huckabee has a solution for anyone who is tired of hearing about the crowded field for the Republican presidential nomination.
"Encourage all these guys to drop out and endorse me," joked the former Arkansas governor on Friday, speaking to California Republicans at their semi-annual convention.
Huckabee trails far behind in the polls and complained that he didn't get enough attention in Wednesday night's debate.
"I wasn't sure if I was in a CNN debate or standing in line at the DMV," he said.
Huckabee criticized the media for trying to spark strife among the candidates, although he also had veiled criticism for front-runner Donald Trump, the New York real estate mogul.
Without mentioning Trump by name, Huckabee said some voters are so angry, "they don't really care if they elect somebody who has any understanding of what it means to govern. They would just basically say, we don't care if you've ever done this before. If you can do this, just burn it down."
Huckabee said he would take a different approach.
"I don't want to go with a can of gasoline and a book of matches to burn the place down," he said. "I want to get a hammer and a saw and a group of people that want to build this country back to the greatest days it's ever had."
During his speech, Huckabee returned to many of the themes he's emphasized during his campaign -- opposition to President Obama's landmark deal limiting Iran's nuclear program, promoting a "moral code" for the U.S. and abolishing the tax code in favor of a flat sales tax.
He also had a few words of encouragement for California Republicans, who don't hold a single statewide office and are badly outnumbered by Democrats in the Legislature.
Huckabee said the party is in better shape in California than it was in Arkansas when he became governor in 1996.
"Our numbers were more lopsided than yours," he said.
Celebrities, artists pack list of new endorsements for Sanders
Bernie Sanders name-dropped a long list of celebrity endorsements Friday, adding momentum to a presidential primary campaign that many political analysts have called a long shot.
Among his 128 backers were actors Justin Long and Danny DeVito, as well as comedians Margaret Cho, Sarah Silverman and Will Ferrell. Shepard Fairey, the artist best known for his “Hope” poster that helped market much of President Obama's 2008 campaign, also signed the endorsement, which read, “We endorse Bernie Sanders to become the 2016 Democratic Nominee for President of the United States of America.”
Despite Sanders' charisma and his appeal to Democrats hungry for an alternative to Hillary Rodham Clinton, polls and pundits have suggested his chances of capturing the nomination are slim because he struggles with poor name recognition and doesn't have much support from minority voters.
Even so, the independent senator from Vermont's chances have been bolstered in recent weeks. Earlier this month, an NBC/Marist poll showed Sanders leading Clinton in New Hampshire, a crucial early primary state.
An estimated 27,500 people turned out at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena on Aug. 10 to watch him speak about criminal justice reform, raising the minimum wage and making public universities tuition-free.
Among his supporters was Silverman, who said Sanders' "moral compass and sense of values inspires me."
"He seems to always be on the right side of history, and it takes a very brave and very empathetic and very visionary person to do that," she added.
The Hollywood set had been expected to come out in full support for Clinton's presidential bid and become a major source of campaign cash. Friday's endorsement list doesn't necessarily mean they won't.
Mark Ruffalo, who was among the signatories to the Sanders endorsement, said at a premiere in April that he hoped Elizabeth Warren would run. But, he said, if Clinton is nominated, “I will be pulling for her,” and polls suggest many of Sanders' supporters feel the same.
Times staff writer Kurtis Lee contributed to this report.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, the woman who knows Carly Fiorina best as a political rival because of their 2010 Senate race against each other, has a few choice words for the ascendant presidential candidate: "mean-spirited," "the face of corporate greed" and "makes Mitt Romney look like a Democrat."
In an exclusive interview Friday with The Times' Seema Mehta, Boxer unloaded about Fiorina, their testy 2010 battle and her prospects for the White House:
Kasich's remark on hotel maids shows GOP's struggle in reaching out to Latinos
Ohio Gov. John Kasich was talking up the contributions of Latinos at a campaign stop Thursday when he made an ill-considered comment highlighting the struggle that some Republicans have had in demonstrating their understanding of the Latino community.
At a golf club in Irvine, Kasich praised Latinos as "great, God-fearing, hardworking folks," but then appeared to conflate Latinos and hotel maids. "A lot of them do jobs that they're willing to do and, uh, that's why in the hotel you leave a little tip," Kasich told members of a conservative-leaning super PAC at Shady Canyon Golf Club.
The comment recalled past Republican missteps when candidates talked about Latinos, including Mitt Romney's quip that being Latino would help him in the polls. He ended up winning just 27% of the Latino vote in the 2012 presidential election.
Latino and Democratic leaders pounced on the comment Friday, with Pablo Manriquez, Hispanic media director for the Democratic National Committee, accusing Kasich of "stereotyping Latino voters." Others said the remark shows how out of touch Kasich is with the Latino electorate.
As the Times noted Friday in a report from a rapidly changing South Carolina city, Republicans face a difficult dilemma with Latino voters. To succeed in the GOP primary, candidates must appeal to the party's conservative base, which demands a hard line on immigration. But they also must appeal to Latinos, a fast-growing electorate that overwhelmingly supports a path to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally.
Non-Latino candidates face a challenge in communicating cultural fluency to Latinos, says Republican political consultant Luis Alvarado.
"We don't see them engaging the communities they are seeking to represent," Alvarado said.
Republican front-runner Donald Trump, who has described Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug dealers, "doesn't communicate with Latinos unless it's in English and it's offensive," Alvarado said.
On the other hand, Republican candidates such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, and Jeb Bush, whose wife is Mexican-born, have shown that they are fluent in both the Spanish language and Latino culture, Alvarado said. At his campaign announcement this summer, Bush shared the stage with the Chirino Sisters, a Miami trio, who sang a classic Cuban song.
Rubio and Bush may be the GOP's best chances for capturing Latino votes in a general election. But they have struggled with the immigration issue, with both supporting legal status -- but not full citizenship -- for the estimated 11 million immigrants in the country illegally. That position is more moderate than what candidates like Trump are proposing, and it could turn off conservative voters in the primary as well as Latino voters in the general.
According to a report released Friday by the nonpartisan Chicago Council on Global Affairs, only 38% of Republicans support allowing immigrants in the country illegally to apply for citizenship.
In contrast, 84% of Latino registered voters said creating a path to citizenship should be the top priority of any immigration overhaul, according to the nonpartisan Pew Research Center.
Republicans, minus Trump, settle in for another round of questions days after the debate
A presidential forum here Friday has most of the leading presidential contenders -- but not the outsize television personality that's so far been the star of the campaign show.
Donald Trump canceled Friday morning, disappointing some of the conservative faithful who lined up outside an arena here for a forum put on by Heritage Action for America, the advocacy arm of the Heritage Foundation. Trump's campaign sent out an email saying he had to miss the event because of a “significant business transaction that was expected to close Thursday.” A campaign spokeswoman declined to say what the deal was, saying it would become public next week.
This has been a rocky week for Trump, who faced zingers from other candidates at Wednesday's debate and has been criticized by both Democrats and Republicans for failing to correct a man who said, at a campaign rally in New Hampshire, that President Obama is a Muslim and “not even an American.”
The cancellation drew a snarky tweet from fellow candidate and Trump antagonist Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal: "Filing for bankruptcy again? Perhaps 5th time is the charm."
Ten of the leading Republican candidates for president are facing one-on-one question-and-answer sessions that Heritage officials say will attempt to pin down the candidates on policy questions: immigration, taxation, defense and social issues. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush went first, followed by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
“Do you like your freedom?” said Heritage grass-roots director Jessica Anderson in opening the event Friday afternoon, and drew a thunderous cheer with her closing liner: “And do you want to take America back from Barack Obama?”
Outside the arena, some waved Confederate battle flags, a show of defiance against South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who pushed for the flag to be taken down from the Statehouse grounds this summer after the Charleston church slayings. Haley is one of the people posing questions to the candidates, along with former Sen. Jim DeMint, now the Heritage Foundation president.
One attendee, 72-year-old Marcia Bogan from Spartansburg, said that she was intrigued by Trump's disdain for political correctness and had been curious to see what kind of policies he would propose.
“I wrote an open letter to him on Facebook and told him I don't know whether to take him more seriously,” she said. “Because everybody knows he's smart. We want to know what he will do to get down to the nitty-gritty. What will he do on immigration, besides build a wall?”
Nancy Pelosi joins the growing calls for more Democratic presidential debates
Hillary Rodham Clinton's rivals in the Democratic primary have been demanding for weeks that the party hold more presidential debates than the scant six that are planned, and on Friday they got a big boost when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco said she agrees with them.
Asked in an interview with The Times whether she would like to see more debates scheduled, Pelosi responded, “I would.”
“Hillary does well -- I think they all do well on them -- and we should have more debates,” Pelosi said. She said she does not have a specific number in mind, but that the 26 debates the Democratic candidates took part in during the 2008 primary was probably too many.
“They thought 26 was too many, and I think it is, and you probably should have something in between,” Pelos said. “But I don't know that we're going to have more debates.”
The debate schedule has become an increasingly awkward issue for the Clinton campaign as the first scheduled event, on Oct. 13 in Nevada, approaches. Clinton's primary challengers have suggested the schedule was designed by party insiders to favor the front-runner, who was so far ahead in the polls when it was drafted that there seemed to be little for her to gain in the race by sharing a stage with lesser-known opponents.
Clinton's support in early voting states has slipped considerably since then, particularly in New Hampshire, where some polls show her trailing Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Now, some longtime Clinton allies are saying it may be in her interest to have more debates.
When asked about the schedule, Clinton campaign officials have repeatedly said it is not up to them, that it is controlled by the Democratic National Committee. DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz has repeatedly said the issue is closed.
But Pelosi's comments put more pressure on the DNC to reopen it.
Huckabee won't criticize Trump, says he takes Obama 'at his word' that he's Christian
Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor seeking the Republican presidential nomination, declined Friday to criticize Donald Trump over his encounter with an audience member but said he would have stepped in to defend President Obama if a supporter questioned his Christian faith.
He made the comments in response to a question from reporters about a Trump campaign event Thursday night, where an audience member falsely said the president is Muslim. Trump did not correct the man.
Huckabee, speaking to reporters at the California Republican Party Convention in Anaheim, wouldn't criticize Trump because, he said, when you're on stage as a candidate, "Sometimes you don't even hear half of what's being said."
"I don't know what Donald Trump heard," he said.
Huckabee said, "If I'd have understood what the person said, I would have said, 'Look, there is no evidence whatsoever that Barack Obama is anything other that what he professes to be, which is a Christian.'"
He added, "I take him at his word for that."
White House fires back at Republicans after Trump encounter
A day after Donald Trump let a supporter go unchallenged in incorrectly claiming President Obama is both Muslim and not American, the White House fired back -- not just at Trump, but at the entire Republican Party.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest stopped just short of calling party officials and voters racist.
"The people who hold these offensive views are part of Mr. Trump's base," Earnest said, noting that he has the "biggest base of any Republican politician these days."
In a town hall in which Trump took questions on Thursday, a man stood up and told him that Muslims are a problem in this country and that "our current president is one." As Trump said, "right," the man went on to add, "You know, he's not even an American."
Trump is far from the first Republican politician to "countenance these views" in an attempt to win support, Earnest charged during his daily press briefing.
"In fact, that's precisely what every Republican presidential candidate is doing when they decline to denounce Mr. Trump's cynical strategy because they're looking for those same votes," Earnest said.
Trump aides said later that he didn't hear the question, but critics immediately compared the real estate mogul's response to the way Republican Sen. John McCain responded to a very similar statement at a town hall meeting during his 2008 campaign against Obama.
McCain took the microphone from the woman and told her, "No, ma'am. He's a decent family man and citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that's what this campaign's all about. He's not" an Arab, as the woman had insisted.
Earnest pointed Friday to the McCain response as an example of "patriotism," but then offered a much more sweeping indictment of the rest of the Republican Party.
A majority of House Republicans elected Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) to the third-ranking position in the chamber despite the fact that a political reporter said she once heard him compare himself to white supremacist David Duke but without the baggage.
"Those same members of Congress," said Earnest, have blocked immigration reform, opposed reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act and refused to support a clean funding bill "because they're eager to defend the Confederate flag."
"Those are the priorities of today's Republican Party," Earnest said, "and they'll continue to be until somebody in the Republican Party decides to summon the courage to stand up and change it."
Clinton to Trump: 'Start behaving like a president'
Hillary Rodham Clinton said she was "appalled" that Donald Trump did not challenge the assertion of an attendee at a town hall meeting Thursday night that President Obama was a Muslim, saying Trump needed to "start behaving like a president" and "stand up for the truth."
Clinton told reporters at a news conference Friday during a campaign swing through New Hampshire that the sentiments expressed by the man at Trump's town hall were "prejudiced" and "discriminatory," and that she would have immediately called out such rhetoric had it been used at one of her events.
"I would call on [Trump] and call on all the candidates to stop this descent into the kind of hateful, mean-spirited, divisive rhetoric that we have seen too much of in the last months," she said. "I think it comes out of the same unfortunate reservoir of hateful rhetoric that we've seen too much of where people are being set against one another. And that has no place in our politics. We have serious issues that we have to deal with in the years ahead. We should be trying to bring the country around solutions, not trying to divide up people and set them against each other."
Clinton had already tweeted about Trump's encounter, saying the comment about Obama and the "hateful rhetoric about Muslims" was "disturbing and just plain wrong."
Republicans line up for tough questioning from a conservative crowd
Just two days from their marathon three-hour debate, the top Republican presidential contenders are gathering here this afternoon. This time, they may face a tougher crowd.
Heritage Action for America, the advocacy arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation, is putting on a forum where each candidate will go on stage one by one for questions from former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, president of Heritage, and Gov. Nikki Haley.
"We're not throwing up a bunch of softballs," said group spokesman Dan Holler. "They'll go out there and explain what their policies are in front of an audience. Our hope is that we're able to prompt a real policy dialogue."
Eleven contenders are expected, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.
Front-runner Donald Trump backed out of the event early Friday, saying he had a business deal he needed to close. A spokeswoman for Trump wouldn't detail the transaction.
South Carolina's senior senator, Lindsey Graham, did not make the cut because his poll numbers were too low.
The event will prove a test on how the candidates' positions play in front of a sold-out, strongly conservative crowd. Holler said the crowd will include local activists and about 900 of the most engaged Heritage faithful from all over the country, called "Sentinels." The group has been a strong voice for the right of the party; it helped quash the immigration reform bill and is now pushing for Congress to hold firm and accept a government shutdown in the interest of defunding Planned Parenthood.
Hillary Clinton: Trump should apologize for response to question on Muslims
Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton harshly criticized Donald Trump for his response to a town hall audience member's racially tinged rant in which the man asked Trump when he would "get rid" of" Muslims and incorrectly insisted that President Obama is Muslim.
Trump, appearing bewildered, answered, "We're going to be doing a lot of different things" before moving on to another questioner.
In a news conference Friday, Clinton assailed Trump and called on him to apologize:
Trump skipping conservative event to close 'significant business transaction'
The Times' Kate Linthicum traveled to South Carolina and found an immigration divide playing out in a conservative state where Latinos make up only 2% of registered voters now, though a major demographic shift looms. She takes a look at what that will mean for the future viability of the Republican Party, whose base demands a hard-line approach to immigration.