WASHINGTON (AP) — Parallel political clashes were igniting Sunday in the volatile presidential primary races, as one-time Republican and Democratic favorites battled once-unlikely rivals in their own party over guns and foreign policy ahead of the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses. Fueling the back-and-forth: President Barack Obama's address heralding two developments in U.S. relations with Iran as triumphs for "smart" diplomacy.
Across the Sunday talk shows hours before their next debate, Hillary Clinton battered Bernie Sanders over his new opposition to a law that shields gun manufacturers from lawsuits. On the Republican side, Donald Trump pounded rival Ted Cruz for not reporting bank loans that Cruz had called an oversight. The Texas senator stuck to his debate sneer that Trump represents "New York values."
And from the margins, far from the front-runner position that was once presumed his, Jeb Bush condemned some of his rivals — especially Trump.
"The guy's entertaining, for sure. But his ideas aren't gonna help people," the former two-time Florida governor said on NBC's "Meet the Press." ''He's not going not win the nomination. And I am."
That's far from clear just two weeks before the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses, given the unsettled Republican field and Bush's fade. But ambiguity rules the Democratic contest too: Sanders, the Vermont senator and self-described democratic socialist, was giving former secretary of state and first lady Hillary Clinton a strong challenge in Iowa and New Hampshire.
On the eve of the debate, Sanders may have handed Clinton the tool she's seeking. Sanders on Saturday night abruptly announced he now supports legislation that would expose gun manufacturers to some legal liability. Clinton jumped on the "flip-flop" and said on several Sunday shows that she hopes he changes his mind about other proposals tightening gun policy.
Sanders denied he was changing position. In the past, he has said his support for the 2005 law was in part an effort to protect small shops in home-state Vermont. The new proposal includes an amendment that would require the government to monitor and report on the law's effect on small stores that serve the hunting community in rural areas.
Among Republicans, as Cruz surged in Iowa, Trump grumbled that the Texas senator is "nasty" and said he would bring up Cruz's loans that had been unreported. Cruz has said that was an oversight.
Even President Barack Obama made an appearance during the Sunday morning shows to highlight back-to-back developments on Iran that he held up as victories: the release of Americans long-held by the Islamic Republic as part of a prisoner swap and the end of some sanctions against Iran as part of nuclear talks.
"This is a good day," Obama said.
Republicans said they were glad the hostages were being released, but they cast the tangle of deals and developments as ultimately risky.
"A very dangerous precedent," is how Cruz, who is surging in Iowa, described the agreement's implementation on Fox News' "Fox and Friends." ''The result of this, every bad actor on earth has been told, 'Go capture an American'... President Obama is in the let's-make-a-deal business."
Clinton, formerly Obama's secretary of state, backed the developments but said the U.S. needs to monitor Iran's behavior on other matters.
"If you're committed to making the world safer and to show strong American leadership, you have to engage in patient, persistent diplomacy with people who are not your friends," she said on CBS' "Face the Nation."