With just two days until Christmas, the 2016 presidential candidates are not exactly in the holiday spirit. While voters are singing carols and dreaming of a snowy holiday, the White House hopefuls have grown increasingly bitter over the past few weeks, slinging insults and calling one another names as they prepare to ramp up their campaigning ahead of the first nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.
The holidays are traditionally a period when election cycles temporarily freeze, as voters have happier things to focus on than the slog of presidential election news. But this year, when nothing has gone as expected, the candidates have shown little sign of scaling back their rhetoric even as they prepare to take a few short days off from campaign stops in early primary states.
Over just the past week or so, candidates have been involved in multiple controversies that led them to call each other everything from “jerk” to “liar” to “feckless weakling” — and of course, the tension has also led to Donald Trump’s now infamous remark that Hillary Clinton got “schlonged” when she ran for president in 2008.
Once again, #MSM is dishonest. "Schlonged" is not vulgar. When I said Hillary got "schlonged" that meant beaten badly.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 23, 2015
The New York billionaire has made insulting his rival candidates a centerpiece of his campaign. Since he announced his presidential bid over the summer, he has continuously lashed out at Democrats as well as other Republicans, taunting Florida Sen. Marco Rubio for sweating during the early debates and calling former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush a “low-energy” candidate.
But while Trump may be the most extreme in his insults, he is certainly not alone. This past weekend while campaigning in New Hampshire, Bush struck out at Trump, unloading some of the frustration that has seemed to plague him for most of the fall.
“I gotta get this off my chest — Donald Trump is a jerk,” Bush said, the New York Times reported . “The idea that he’s actually running for president and insulting people is deeply discouraging, to be honest with you and I think we should reject that out of hand. I hope you’ll reject it by voting for me, but a guy like that should not be the front-running candidate of our great party.”
Trump hit back with a predictable shot at Bush’s family. "It's very sad. His family's so ashamed," he said Monday, CNN reported .
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul boarded the insult train Wednesday with his annual airing of grievances in honor of the “Seinfeld” holiday Festivus. He tweeted out a number of attacks on his rivals, taking the opportunity to criticize everything from Rubio’s Senate attendance record to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s Canadian heritage to Clinton’s bathroom break during the last Democratic debate.
— Dr. Rand Paul (@RandPaul) December 23, 2015
With all of the insults being tossed about, substantive policy issues have seemingly taken a back seat. Rubio and Cruz have been trading particularly harsh blows recently as the two have risen in polls and seen each other as primary rivals for the nomination.
Cruz accused Rubio last week of “hiding from the grassroots” and running his campaign “from a TV studio,” while Rubio has hit back on shows such as “Meet the Press” and “Face the Nation,” calling out Cruz’s record on immigration.
After the Texas senator said Rubio sided with Democrats to fight for amnesty for undocumented immigrants, Rubio argued that Cruz’s plan is to “spend your whole time telling people that you're a clear talker, and you say what you mean, and everyone else is a sellout, but you're the only purist.”
All of these candidates are hoping to pick up some support and momentum before the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses open the primary voting season. Once the voting begins, they will try to snag as many early states as possible to prove to voters and donors that they have what it takes to keep going. A good number of the many Republican candidates are expected to drop out after the first few nominating contests.
Seems like a better idea for a cartoon: Hillary and her lapdogs. pic.twitter.com/dou9c7fS4U
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) December 23, 2015
The smaller field on the Democratic side has not made them immune from these tense exchanges, either. Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders are still reeling from last week’s data breach, which allowed Sanders aides to improperly access Clinton’s voter data.
When the Democratic National Committee (DNC) temporarily locked Sanders out of its voter file database, his campaign alleged the party establishment was trying to sabotage the insurgent candidate. “The leadership of the Democratic National Committee is now actively attempting to undermine our campaign. This is unacceptable. Individual leaders of the DNC can support Hillary Clinton in any way they want, but they are not going to sabotage our campaign,” Sanders’ campaign manager Jeff Weaver said Friday.
Since then, both campaigns have said they will work with the DNC to ensure another data breach does not occur, but the atmosphere remains somewhat tense. Clinton, who has kept her criticisms largely focused on policy issues and Trump, released a Christmas video earlier this week titled “How the Republicans Steal Progress” that depicts GOP candidates with animated characters.
Still, though most candidates' campaigns are on hiatus until Monday, they can easily continue picking fights on Twitter and TV, as the media is unlikely to go four days without Trump on air. Even those who engage in the insults themselves, like Bush, have noted the tough tone the 2016 race has taken lately. "Trump is not going to be president because he says these things that turns people off," Bush said Tuesday. "For crying out loud, we're two days before Christmas. Lighten up, man."