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Bush, Cruz pledge defense boost in appeals to South Carolina’s military community

AP

Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz on Tuesday appealed to South Carolina, a state with a large military and veteran population, with promises to strengthen U.S. defense as the next Republican primary approaches.

South Carolina residents will cast their votes for a Republican nominee for president on Saturday. For the Democrats, the Nevada caucuses are next.

Bush, the former Florida governor, has been trying to position himself as a more mainstream alternative to brash front-runner Donald Trump and outspoken conservative Cruz. On Monday, Bush had his brother, former President George W. Bush, on the campaign trail for the first time.

Jeb Bush’s comments Tuesday focused heavily on gun rights. He also addressed the Supreme Court vacancy following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, saying that he would choose someone who, like Scalia, was a “lover of liberty.”

Cruz, a Texas senator, called for increasing the number of active-duty troops, airplanes and battleships. He did not put a price tag on his plans, but pointed to former President Ronald Reagan’s approach as a model for how he would get it done.

Cruz said he will pay for it by cutting federal spending by at least $500 billion, selling federal assets and properties and auditing the Pentagon to find savings.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio focused on his tax returns Tuesday, saying he plans to release them “any day,” or even “momentarily.”

He released several years of returns during his 2010 Senate campaign, but has yet to release any returns beyond the 2009 tax year. He plans to release returns covering tax years from 2009 through 2014.

Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton continued her outreach to African-Americans as the race to collect delegates for the party’s nominating convention hurtles toward states with significant black voting populations.

The former secretary of state met with civil rights leaders in New York City and said the U.S. still has “work to do” to ensure equal rights. She said she is focusing her campaign on “breaking every barrier.”

The Rev. Al Sharpton offered warm words for Clinton. Her rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, met with Sharpton last week.