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
S.V. Dáte
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S.V. Dáte
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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