White House aspirants focus on next battleground: New Hampshire

Washington, Feb 3 (IANS) Ahead of the next presidential battle in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both saw victory in their razor thin contest in Iowa, while Donald Trump, though much mellowed, insisted his brand is doing great.

In the Democratic race, edging out Sanders by the narrowest margin of just four votes (701-697) for the top spot in Monday night’s Iowa caucuses, Clinton downplayed her rival’s strong performance with young voters as her campaign spun it as a historic win.

Clinton said she would win over the young with her plans for college affordability and student debt relief.

But she also sought to lower expectations in next Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, where polls have showed the neighbouring Vermont senator holding a lead.

“I know that they tend to favour their neighbors. That’s the pattern,” Clinton told CNN. “Senator Sanders is a neighbour, but I think we will have a good contest.”

“I am so thrilled,” said Clinton whose disastrous third place finish in 2008 in Iowa unravelled her first presidential bid.

“My luck was not that good last time around, and it was wonderful to win the caucus, to have that experience.”

However, the Sanders campaign painted it as a fight against the establishment and the powerful Clinton Machine.

“We went toe-to-toe with the establishment,” Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver told CNN on Tuesday.

“We’re going to fight really hard in New Hampshire and then we’re going to Nevada, to South Carolina, we’re doing well around the country,” Sanders himself said shortly landing in New Hampshire.

Sanders, who trailed Clinton in Iowa by 30 points three months ago, told a raucous crowd chanting “Bernie, Bernie” that his campaign made stunning progress.

“Nine months ago, we came to this beautiful state, we had no political organization, we had no money, we had no name recognition and we were taking on the most powerful political organization in the United States of America,” he said.

Meanwhile, on the Republican side, Trump acknowledged his decision to skip the last Republican debate before the Iowa caucuses may have led to his finishing second to Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

Still, Trump said he would make the same decision again, pointing to the $6 million he raised for veterans’ charities.

But the real estate mogul refused to concede any mistakes his campaign may have made in Iowa and said he was not concerned about how his runner-up finish in Iowa could affect the brand he has promoted throughout his career and campaign: that of a winner.

“I think my brand is doing great,” Trump told reporters.

In the latest CNN Poll of Polls, Trump led Cruz 31 percent to 13 percent with third finisher Florida senator Marco Rubio at 11 percent.

But given his clear victory over Trump in Iowa, Cruz campaign is expecting a significant uptick in polling and fundraising in the coming days. Taking a victory lap in New Hampshire, Cruz attributed his caucus win to a “grassroots army.”

Rubio too faces a key test with keeping the momentum alive after his third place finish in Iowa.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee has already called it quits. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson has gone home to Florida “for a change of clothes” after his fourth place finish in Iowa.

Meanwhile, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, Ohio governor John Kasich and New Jersey governor Chris Christie, are said to be trying to rally establishment-minded Republicans to their side in New Hampshire.

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

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