Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush and Iowa’s 2016 Grind

Both one-time front-runners are finding their route to the nomination long and complicated.

David Greedy AFP/Getty
Sept. 22, 2015, 6:21 p.m.

DES MOINES, Iowa—Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush nearly crossed paths here Tuesday. They would have had plenty of commiserate about: both the onetime favorites to win their respective parties’ nominations, they now find themselves mired in the slow primary grind.

A former secretary of State and former first lady, Clinton entered the year as the virtually unopposed front-runner for the 2016 Democratic nomination. Now—though still the leader in most national polling and the favorite to win the nomination—she is trailing Sen. Bernie Sanders in some polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, while waiting to see if Vice President Joe Biden further complicates her outlook with a late entry into the race.

Bush, similarly, was originally the Republicans’ early favorite. The son and brother of the last two Republican presidents, Bush was able to use his family’s decades-old fundraising network to amass more than $100 million for the super PAC backing him before officially entering the race in June. Three months later, he is in single digits in Iowa and New Hampshire.

But Bush, who has had major roles in presidential campaigns since his father George H.W. Bush’s first run in 1980, said polling at this point means little, particularly in Iowa because it’s so difficult for pollsters to identify actual caucus-goers.

“The polling organizations don’t have the money to spend to do all the filtering to get to the caucus-goer that would show up on a Monday night and spend a couple of hours in what will probably be a warm, tropical climate,” Bush said, joking about the likely weather on a February night in Iowa.

Clinton used her Des Moines visit to detail her plan to add a prescription drug benefit to the Affordable Care Act. Out-of-pocket costs for critical medicines would be capped at $250 a month, and drug companies would no longer be permitted to count advertising for drugs as a business expense.

She said that while the law had lowered overall health care costs, it was not helping all Americans. “Insurance companies have been keeping the savings for themselves and shifting more cost on families,” Clinton said, adding that she would defend the law that today is providing health insurance to 16 million Americans who didn’t have it, and that she would announce plans to limit Americans’ out-of-pocket expenses in the coming days, as well.

“What we’re going to do is build on and improve the Affordable Care Act,” she said.

Clinton’s strong defense of Obama’s signature health care law likely guarantees that it will remain a campaign hot button for Republicans, at least through the primaries, even as polling suggests that the public may be slowly warming to it.

Even Bush, whose more measured tone makes him among the least strident critics among the GOP field, said he would push to repeal the entire law if he is elected.

“Her doubling down on all this stuff is going to be a problem for her politically,” Bush told reporters. “I’m looking forward to taking it to her on this. I think there’s a far better approach. We’ll propose repealing Obamacare and coming up with a more consumer-driven system that will improve health care access and health care cost.”

Bush, meanwhile, unrolled another of his policy proposals Tuesday: a plan to limit regulations, as well as and force new regulations that increase costs on businesses to be offset by cancelling others to reduce costs by the same amount. He said business owners will love it when they learn more about it, particularly after six-and-a-half years of the Obama administration.

“It’s a game changer,” he said of his plan.

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