Instead of attacking one another, the candidates for the Democratic nomination stuck to attacking Republican candidates for president.
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — For the first time this campaign season, the five people vying for the Democratic presidential nomination shared the same stage.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, former Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia and Lincoln Chafee, a former governor and senator from Rhode Island, spoke at the sold-out Iowa Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame dinner Friday night in Cedar Rapids.
Instead of attacking one another, they stuck to attacking Republican candidates for president. “I am never going to let the Republicans rip away the progress we have made,” Clinton said. “They may have some fresh faces but they are the party of the past.”
Clinton singled out three of the most prominent Republican candidates, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and Donald Trump, for their views on U.S. workers, abortion rights and immigration. “Finally someone whose hair is getting more attention than mine,” she cracked about Trump.
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As for GOP economic policy, she said: “Trickle-down economics has to be one of the worst ideas of the 1980s,” referring to Republican policy from the Reagan era. “It is right up there with New Coke, shoulder pads and big hair. … We are not going back to that.”
The speech was one of her most aggressive since she launched her campaign, earning her a standing ovation, sustained applause and chants of “Hill-a-ry.”
Sanders, too, was fiery. He started his speech with his voice raised, denouncing the “disastrous” trade agreement pushed by President Obama and the billionaire class.
“Enough is enough,” he said. “This country belongs to us and not a handful of billionaires!”
His supporters repeatedly interrupted him to agree and bang on the tables. “Yeah!”
“No president can bring about the changes that we need in this country unless there is a political revolution,” he said.
Hundreds of Iowa Democrats crowded into the Cedar Rapids Convention Complex to hear the candidates.
The lesser-known candidates were just trying to get noticed. None of them were aggressive in the way Clinton and Sanders were, but O’Malley blasted Republicans and big business. “Main Street struggles while Wall Street soars,” he said.
They met on stage together at the start of the program but sat at separate tables during dinner and spoke one at a time. Before the event, large groups of Clinton and O’Malley supporters gathered outside, chanting and holding signs.
Some were paid by Clinton’s campaign and by Generation Forward, a political-action committee supporting O’Malley. Many said they were not allowed to speak to the media.
Mama Lynne, a community activist from Des Moines who said she was being paid by Generation Forward, a super PAC supporting O’Malley, said she is not worried about his low name recognition at this stage. “Others have been down in the polls,” she said.
Clinton remains far ahead in Iowa Democratic polls, but Sanders is gaining.
A Quinnipiac University poll late last month put Clinton ahead, 52 percent to 33 percent. A month earlier, Clinton had a 60 percent to 15 percent lead.
No one else came close last month. Vice President Joe Biden had 7 percent, followed by O’Malley with 3 percent and Webb with 1 percent. Chafee had less than 1 percent.
Before the dinner, two state Democrats announced their support for Clinton: Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald.