Trump leads in South Carolina; Clinton faces tough fight in Nevada

Washington, Feb 20 (IANS) Donald Trump is leading the Republican pack ahead of Saturday’s crucial primary in South Carolina while Hillary Clinton is facing a tough challenge from Bernie Sanders in the Democratic contest in Nevada.

With the real estate mogul leading with 31.8 percent support in Real Clear Politics average of polls widely expected to win in Indian-American governor Nikki Haley’s home state, the focus is on who would get the second place.

While Texas senator Ted Cruz, who scored a surprise win in the first Republican caucus in Iowa, has the backing of 18.4 percent Republican voters, Florida senator Marco Rubio snapping at his heels with 17.8 percent, has been endorsed by Haley.

Trump, who Thursday took on Pope Francis for suggesting he is not Christian because of his plans to build a wall on the US-Mexican border and deport illegal immigrants and Rubio are both attacking Cruz calling him a liar and dishonest.

“He holds up the Bible and then he lies,” Trump said of Cruz Thursday. “I think it’s very inappropriate.”

Cruz is fighting back and dared Trump to sue him after the billionaire sent a letter urging Cruz to stop.

The remaining three candidates are also hoping for a good performance in South Carolina to keep their campaigns going.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson thinks he’ll perform better in South Carlolina than many expect.

“It’s a very important state,” he said in Charleston. “It can have an effect of redirecting things. I think there is a lot of potential here.”

John Kasich, the Ohio governor, is hoping his strong New Hampshire second-place finish will lead to unexpected gains in future primaries.

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, after losing the coveted endorsement of Haley to Rubio, is running low on cash.

His efforts this week have included campaigning with his brother, former president George W. Bush, and his mother, former First Lady Barbara Bush.

Meanwhile, self styled Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders is posing a tough challenge to Clinton in the Democratic caucus in Nevada.

In her first run for the White House in 2008, Clinton won the popular vote in Nevada over then Sen. Barack Obama.

The question is whether after a drubbing in New Hampshire, would she be able to repeat the feat and put a stop to the “Bern-mentum.”

Both campaigns have invested heavily in caucus training geared toward Spanish speakers, including the Clinton campaign’s training, “Caucus Conmigo.”

Clinton reiterated Friday that she’ll release the transcripts of the infamously expensive speeches she gave to Wall Street firms including Goldman Sachs if other politicians start releasing transcripts of their past speeches to private groups.

“I’m happy to release anything I have when everybody else does the same, because every other candidate in this race has given speeches to private groups, including Senator Sanders,” she said at an event in Las Vegas.

Bernie Sanders’ campaign quickly “accept[ed] Clinton’s challenge” with a tongue in cheek press release:

“Sen. Sanders accepts Clinton’s challenge. He will release all of the transcripts of all of his Wall Street speeches. That’s easy. The fact is, there weren’t any. Bernie gave no speeches to Wall Street firms.”

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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