With pri­maries ap­proach­ing, cam­paign kicks into high gear

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Vi­vian Salama and Scott Bauer

Early vot­ing is con­sid­ered crit­i­cal in such a crowded race for the GOP nom­i­na­tion, so cam­paigns are kick­ing into high gear, es­pe­cially in Iowa and New Hamp­shire.

boone, iowa» From Iowa to New Hamp­shire — on the air, on the bus and on the stump — can­di­dates vy­ing to be­come Amer­ica’s next pres­i­dent roared out of the hol­i­days in full force Mon­day with less than a month to go be­fore vot­ing be­gins.

The com­ing weeks are es­pe­cially cru­cial for Repub­li­cans as vot­ers look to weed through the thicket of choices to de­ter­mine who will rep­re­sent and at­tempt to re­unite a bick­er­ing party. This — as con­tentious is­sues over ter­ror­ism, se­cu­rity, civil lib­er­ties and gun own­er­ship re­ver­ber­ate — gives can­di­dates plenty to ar­gue about.

Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton and Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump have been the con­sis­tent fa­vorites in polls over­all.

Clin­ton has an im­pres­sive or­ga­ni­za­tion be­hind her, while Trump’s abil­ity to pull off a win­ning ground game is in ques­tion and his fru­gal spend­ing to date has stood in stark con­trast to his vast per­sonal wealth. He says he’s open­ing the money spigot now.

Early vot­ing is deemed crit­i­cal in races, such as this one, when the path to a nom­i­na­tion is un­clear. As mystery shrouds the Repub­li­can race, the Demo­cratic one hangs on whether Bernie San­ders, an in­de­pen­dent so­cial­ist se­na­tor from Ver­mont, can turn his months of large, pas­sion­ate ral­lies into enough votes to up­set the for­mer first lady.

In Iowa, the first of the early vot­ing states, Repub­li­can con­tender Ted Cruz was set to launch his bus tour through the state, where his cam­paign feels he is well-po­si­tioned to win.

Cruz called on Iowa vot­ers to bring nine of their friends and fam­ily mem­bers with them to vote for him in the Feb. 1 cau­cuses. Cruz made the plea Mon­day in the first of 28 planned stops in Iowa over the next six days.

“Now is the time that the men and women of Iowa step up and make your de­ci­sion,” Cruz said in Boone.

For­mer Arkansas Gov. Mike Huck­abee, a sec­ond-time Repub­li­can hope­ful, also set out in Iowa on Mon­day, hold­ing break­fast meet­ings and town halls across the state as he looks to turn his cam­paign’s slug­gish start around.

Clin­ton kicked off a two-day swing in Iowa, where she was sched­uled to at­tend sev­eral or­ga­niz­ing events in prepa­ra­tion for the cau­cuses. In New Hamp­shire, for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton launched his own tour on be­half of his wife, talk­ing about Hil­lary Clin­ton’s cam­paign prom­ises and his own ex­pe­ri­ence in the White House.

San­ders cam­paigned Mon­day in New Hamp­shire, which votes Feb. 9.

Trump sought to de­rail his ri­vals Mon­day, de­but­ing his first tele­vi­sion ad in both Iowa and New Hamp­shire, fea­tur­ing dark im­ages of the San Bernardino, Calif., shoot­ers, body bags and masked men.

The ad re­in­forced highly crit­i­cized re­marks he made last month propos­ing a tem­po­rary ban on Mus­lims look­ing to en­ter the United States, which sparked out­rage from Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic ri­vals alike. The com­ments threat­ened the party’s drive to at­tract mi­nori­ties, an ef­fort al­ready com­pli­cated by Trump’s neg­a­tiv­ity to­ward Mex­i­can im­mi­grants.

Trump says he plans to spend at least $2 mil­lion per week on tele­vi­sion ads in Iowa and New Hamp­shire over­all.

He was head­ing to Mas­sachusetts late Mon­day be­fore catching up to many of the other can­di­dates flood­ing into New Hamp­shire this week.

Left, Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Ted Cruz walks into a cam­paign event at Char­lie’s Steak­house on Mon­day in Car­roll, Iowa. Right, Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton speaks dur­ing a town hall meet­ing in Keota, Iowa, last month. Aaron P. Bern­stein, Getty Im­ages; Char­lie Neibergall, The As­so­ci­ated Press

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