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In both parties, 2016 front-runners go on the attack

January 22, 2016 at 6:45 PM EDT
As voting draws near, Republican front-runners Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz escalated their rivalry by questioning one another’s conservative credentials, while the GOP establishment railed against both. Meanwhile, Democrat Hillary Clinton went after Sen. Bernie Sanders over Obamacare, and Sanders faced criticism over the lack of diversity in a new ad. Political director Lisa Desjardins reports.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Turning to the race for the White House, it’s crunch time for the candidates on the campaign trail, with only 10 days remaining until caucus-goers gather to make their choices in Iowa.

The front-runners are using tried-and-true tactics to turn votes in their favor.

Political director Lisa Desjardins reports.

LISA DESJARDINS: Voting day gets closer, and, what do you know, the race suddenly gets sharper. In each party, the two front-runners, previously friendly, are going on the attack.

For Republicans, the Ted Cruz-Donald Trump detente has exploded into shots fired.

DONALD TRUMP, Republican Presidential Candidate: Cruz is going down. He is going down. No, he’s having a hard time. He looks like a nervous wreck.

SEN. TED CRUZ, Republican Presidential Candidate: Donald has been an active supporter. He gave $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation.

LISA DESJARDINS: And in the last day, the candidates have each launched new ads, each arguing the other is not a real conservative.

Trump’s play, immigration. His ad raises Cruz’s past support of some legal status for the undocumented.

SEN. TED CRUZ: I want immigration reform to pass, and that allows those who are here illegally to come in out of the shadows.

LISA DESJARDINS: Cruz’s ad plays a different card, pointing to Trump’s defense of eminent domain. That’s the taking of private land for development or roads.

NARRATOR: It made him rich, like when Trump colluded with Atlantic City insiders to bulldoze the home of an elderly widow.

LISA DESJARDINS: Their fight for the nomination is now suddenly a fight for the soul of the Republican Party. This week, Bob Dole, former Senate Republican leader and presidential nominee, blasted Cruz, saying he would mean cataclysmic and wholesale losses for the party.

Cruz has said that’s a sign that Washington is scared of him. Other conservatives see Trump as more alarming. “National Review” magazine, a conservative icon, etched its cover with the words “Against Trump,” inside, sharper words still. Editors wrote that “Trump is a political opportunist, that he knows approximately as much about national security as he does about the nuclear triad, which is to say almost nothing.”

They also wrote that “Trump has shown no interest in conservative issues, limiting government, reforming entitlements or the Constitution.”

Trump, for his part, was equally stinging, tweeting back that “The National Review” is a failing publication that has lost its way.

Meantime, with the Democratic race suddenly tighter, Hillary Clinton is pushing her national security credentials in a new ad, and she’s going after Bernie Sanders’ for wanting government-run health care after Obamacare.

HILLARY CLINTON, Democratic Presidential Candidate: I don’t want to rip up this accomplishment and begin this contentious debate all over again. That’s where I disagree with my esteemed opponent, Senator Sanders.

LISA DESJARDINS: Sanders is getting attention for this more thematic, ad. It portrays a movement of regular working Americans. The images have been criticized for a lack of diversity, in a race where Sanders trails with African-Americans.

On the trail, the Vermont senator is stepping up his criticism, this morning pointing to Social Security. He’d like to raise taxes on the wealthy to expand it. It is closing argument time, 10 days until Iowa, tight races on both sides. That also means time for closing punches.

For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Lisa Desjardins.

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