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Confident Sanders plays down Clinton’s hold over voters in Iowa home stretch

Bernie Sanders speaks at the University of Iowa on Saturday. Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty ImagesBernie Sanders speaks at the University of Iowa on Saturday. Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

On the last day of campaigning before the Iowa caucuses, Bernie Sanders mounted a last-minute challenge to Hillary Clinton’s slim poll lead.

Rejecting suggestions that the Democratic party leadership was wary of his nomination because they are fearful of his proposals to raise taxes, Sanders told NBC’s Meet the Press it was not his healthcare and tax proposals that would cause problems in the general election.

“I think, in fact, Hillary Clinton will be the problem,” he said.

Sanders said his proposals would save middle-class families thousands of dollars a year on their healthcare costs.

“Most people tell me, yes, they would be happy to pay $1,000 more in taxes if they’re paying $5,000 less in healthcare premiums,” he said, vowing to take on drug companies “who are ripping us off” and to guarantee healthcare to all people, and thereby to “do what every other major country on earth is doing”.

A Des Moines Register-Bloomberg poll released on Saturday found Clinton with 45% of Democratic support and Sanders with 42%.

Sanders acknowledged that success in the caucuses on Monday – as the threat of fierce winter weather hovers over the state, though a blizzard is forecast only for Tuesday – will depend on a healthy turnout of young supporters, as it would in a general election should he win the nomination.

He said his campaign was “generating excitement and energy that will result in a high voter turnout. Republicans win when voter turnout is low. Democrats win when voter turnout is high. I think our campaign is raising issues about a rigged economy and a corrupt campaign finance system.”

Later on Sunday the Sanders campaign released financial figures, saying it had raised $20m in January, mostly from donations of no more than $27. The campaign’s 3.25 million individual contributions are a record for any presidential candidate.

Sanders’ campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, claimed the Register poll showed momentum on the senator’s side.

“Our campaign has come a very long way in eight months. In late May, according to the Register/Bloomberg poll, we were down by 41 points. Today we are virtually tied,” he told the Washington Post.

Sanders refused to be drawn on the simmering controversy over Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state, telling ABC’s This Week he would not “politicize” questions about whether Clinton may have compromised classified information.

The issue flared up again on Friday, when the US government said 22 emails containing material demanding one of the highest levels of classification had been found on the private server.

Clinton sought on Sunday to reiterate her position on the issue, telling ABC “there is no classified marked information on those emails sent or received by me”.

Her solution, she said, would be to “release the emails, let the public see, and move on”.

“I take classified information very seriously,” she said. “You can’t take information off the classified system onto the unclassified system, no matter what that is.”

In response to comments made in the Guardian by former secretary of labor Robert Reich, naming Sanders as the candidate to combat inequality, Clinton argued that as the campaign continued she would bring in more people who felt like they were on the fringes of society.

Clinton predicted she would eventually win over doubters, and said: “When I was secretary of state even the Republicans said I was doing a good job.”

She also, however, alluded to ferocious attacks from Republicans over her record as the top US diplomat under Obama, saying “this is very much like Benghazi”.

Last year, Clinton survived relatively unscathed an 11-hour congressional grillingregarding the 2012 attack on a US facility in the Libyan city in which four Americans including the ambassador were killed.

With campaigning in Iowa reaching a crescendo, focus was turning to whether the two outsider candidates at the top end of the polls, Sanders and Donald Trump, can now turn voter anger into voter action.

On the Republican side, Iowa Republican party chairman Jeff Kaufman said he anticipated turnout easily surpassing existing records. On Saturday, Trump told a large crowd in Dubuque that if they didn’t show up to caucus tomorrow the effort would be wasted.

“I don’t care what it is,” he said. “If you don’t get out, we’re wasting time.”

On Sunday, Trump rejected accusations leveled by Senator Ted Cruz, his closest challenger in Iowa, that he skipped this week’s Fox News debate in order to hide his liberal past.

Speaking to Fox News Sunday, Trump also defended past contributions to the Clinton Foundation that records suggest reached as much as $250,000.

Trump said he understood at the time that the Clintons were engaged with reconstruction in Haiti, not renting private aircraft.

“I was a businessman and it was my obligation to get along with everyone,” he said.

Cruz, meanwhile, responded to Trump’s needling over undeclared loans, saying the candidate who is five points ahead in the polls was unnerved.

“Donald looks rattled,” Cruz said, also on Fox News Sunday. “That why he’s insulting me everyday. It’s the height of chutzpah.” – theguardian –


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