By Maggie Haberman – – – –
Last year, there were 17 Republican presidential candidates, six Democrats, and a race that was upended by the presence of one flamboyant New York billionaire, Donald J. Trump.
As 2015 drew to a close, there are 12 Republican candidates and just three Democrats. And Mr. Trump remains, as the race heads into a new, uglier phase of engagement among the candidates, particularly among the Republicans.
The race on the Republican side has hinged on fears of an increase in immigration, as well of the terrorist threat posed by the Islamic State. But undergirding it all is the fear of a dwindling working class and an anger over the financial crisis of 2008. A sense that no one was properly punished has pervaded.
That is also true among the Democratic base, which has given Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont a lift in the race against Hillary Clinton, who has led national polls for months. Mrs. Clinton has tried to forge lasting connections with Hispanic voters and to re-establish old ones with black voters, whose support she will need in the primaries beyond the first two contests in the heavily white states of Iowa and New Hampshire, as well as in a general election.
As January draws near, the Republican candidates competing in the establishment lane are taking aim at one another. With four weeks until the Iowa caucuses and five until the New Hampshire primary, there is little time to spare. The candidates need to draw contrasts and pick up scraps of support, and they are doing their best to paint themselves as the best choice. At the same time, Mr. Trump is vowing to spend millions on television ads in the early states in the final weeks.
In reality, that is on a par with what others are already spending. Mr. Trump has only recently tried to mobilize voters and use the Republican National Committee voter file to establish which supporters to turn out. Because, at the end of the day, it all comes down to turnout.