TOPICS > Politics > Vote 2016

Republicans take aim at rivals as Democrats ready for debate

February 4, 2016 at 6:50 PM EDT
With the New Hampshire primary drawing near, candidates from both parties revved up with personal attacks. Donald Trump claimed that Sen. Ted Cruz’s Iowa caucus win was tainted, while Gov. Chris Christie accused Sen. Marco Rubio of being “coddled.” Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton faced criticism from Sen. Bernie Sanders over her corporate ties. Political director Lisa Desjardins reports.

GWEN IFILL: It’s been another day of hard campaigning, and hard words, in New Hampshire, where primary day is just five days off. As Democrats prepared to debate tonight, the top Republican contenders took new shots at each other.

Political director Lisa Desjardins reports.

LISA DESJARDINS: Cruz fired off a broadside.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), Republican Presidential Candidate: Donald Trump is very rattled right now. You know, he said, how stupid could the people of Iowa be? I assume the next question he’s going to ask is, how stupid can the people of New Hampshire be?

LISA DESJARDINS: While, in Exeter, Trump suggested again that Cruz’s win in Iowa was tainted.

DONALD TRUMP (R), Republican Presidential Candidate: We will find out what happens. That was a very strange thing that happened in Iowa.

LISA DESJARDINS: In the meantime, the candidates that some call establishment kept their fire trained on one another. Marco Rubio made his own appearance in Portsmouth.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), Republican Presidential Candidate: I am the conservative that can win. And if we win, we can turn this country around.

LISA DESJARDINS: But Chris Christie dismissed that claim, telling ABC News that, in fact, the Florida senator is the most coddled candidate in the race.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), Republican Presidential Candidate: The heat that he will get from Hillary Clinton, if he’s ever the nominee, will be much greater than anything any of us could throw at him.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: Are you really progressive?

LISA DESJARDINS: … Hillary Clinton herself was feeling the heat last night at CNN’s town hall in Derry, New Hampshire. At issue, still, who’s the true progressive?

Bernie Sanders, ahead in New Hampshire polls, appeared separately. He argued that Clinton’s ties to Wall Street are a disqualifier.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), Democratic Presidential Candidate: I do not know any progressive who has a super PAC and takes $15 million from Wall Street. That’s just not progressive.


LISA DESJARDINS: Clinton was pressed, in particular, for speaking fees she’d previously collected from Goldman Sachs.

ANDERSON COOPER: Did you have to be paid $675,000?

HILLARY CLINTON (D), Democratic Presidential Candidate: Well, I don’t know. That’s what they offered.


LISA DESJARDINS: But she insisted the money wouldn’t sway her policy about banks.

HILLARY CLINTON: Name anything they have influenced me on. Just name one thing. I’m out here every day saying I’m going to shut them down, I’m going after them, I’m going to jail them if they should be jailed, I’m going to break them up. I mean, they’re not giving me very much money now. I can tell you that much.


LISA DESJARDINS: In between the barbs, there were also glimpses of how the candidates view the world at their core.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: And I worry very much about a society where some people spiritually say, it doesn’t matter to me, I got it, I don’t care about other people.

So my spirituality is that we are all in this together and that when children go hungry, when veterans sleep out on the street, it impacts me.

HILLARY CLINTON: Be grateful for being a human being, being part of the universe. Be grateful for your limitations. Know that you have to reach out to have more people be with you, to support you, to advise you. Listen to your critics. Answer the questions. But, at the end, be grateful.

LISA DESJARDINS: Clinton and Sanders face each other directly tonight in a debate just added to the calendar hosted by MSNBC in Manchester.

GWEN IFILL: And now we turn to our political director, Lisa Desjardins, in Manchester.

Lisa, you have been on the ground there. You have been going to events, talking to voters. What are you hearing? What do they want to hear?

LISA DESJARDINS: I think this is the moment where New Hampshire is fully turning its attention to this race.

Gwen, I think that this is not a time to look at polls coming out of New Hampshire, because from my talks with voters today, even those who have told pollsters that they made up their mind told me today that they’re still squishy, that they’re still looking at all the candidates.

I think what it feels like today in New Hampshire, Gwen, is a moment of great and kind of profound evaluation. Voters here feel like it is a very important contest on both sides, and there are some voters I talked to today who said they’re not even sure which party they’re going to vote with.

GWEN IFILL: So at these events that you go to visit, whether ladies who lunch, meeting with surrogates, or whether it’s Donald Trump at a police station, or political tourists from all over the country, what is it that people are feeling, are looking for, are actually searching around for?

LISA DESJARDINS: It’s a good question, because I’m not sure the campaigns coming out of Iowa have fully embraced what voters here in New Hampshire are looking for.

In Iowa, it seemed clear there were a lot of supporters looking for their candidates. They wanted exposure, and they wanted those big, large speeches. Here in New Hampshire, the voters are telling me again and again they want that personal contact. They demand it. It’s nothing to them to see a candidate four or five times.

I know our viewers have heard that before, but I think it’s especially worth putting a spike in right now. When Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, and Marco Rubio all seem to be in a real horse race, they have a pool of voters that, just from talking to them on the ground, Gwen, aren’t sure which one to go with.

Those Republican voters, Gwen, that I talked to today, they want a strong, tough leader, but they also want one who they think will represent this country with dignity. They see three candidates who all represent very different combinations of those things they want. And I have not heard many voters today who said they are 100 percent sure about which one of those three are on top.

And on top of those three, there are other Republicans that are very much in the game here.

GWEN IFILL: I want to get to them. I want to talk about the dignity piece.


GWEN IFILL: We have seen a lot of squabbling going back at the top of both sides.


GWEN IFILL: But does that allow someone like Marco Rubio, who seems seemed to have at least come out of Iowa looking better than expected, he said, to walk through the middle of all of that?

LISA DESJARDINS: That certainly is the Rubio campaign’s hope, but to be honest, Gwen, as much as we hear so much about Marco Rubio, I’m not sure he’s surging quite yet in New Hampshire.

What I felt from voters today is that those who had not really given him a hard look before now are looking at him closely. So I think over this weekend, maybe that surge will start to happen, the doors open for him. I think you’re right that there is a question of dignity.

Donald Trump has used more colorful language than before today and in the past couple of days. And I heard more than one voter who said that they liked Trump, saying that they don’t like the way he’s questioning the results in Iowa. They say he needs to move on, and it’s making them look at him in a little bit of a different way.

GWEN IFILL: Well, tonight, another Democratic debate. Last night, we had a forum, tonight, both of them are on stage. What are we expecting?

LISA DESJARDINS: Right. This is a huge moment for both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Of course, Bernie Sanders way out in front in the polls, but when you talk to voters here, there are a lot of question marks about not just whether his agenda is feasible, but is it doable?

Not just could anyone in some time in the future create this political revolution, but in the next eight years, when voters feel they need economic help, could Bernie Sanders actually bring some of that economic help? So, that’s the question he has to answer in this debate.

For Hillary Clinton, it’s almost the opposite. Her strength is that voters feel that she can get things done. We have seen her talk about that, but there is a lot of mistrust of her. We have talked about that before.

And what’s interesting, Gwen, is it’s from voters who feel they know her very well. She and Bill Clinton have campaigned here for many cycles. So she has to sort of present a new side to a face that is very well known here. That is not always easy to do.

GWEN IFILL: From the ground in Manchester, New Hampshire, for us tonight, Lisa Desjardins, thank you.