DURHAM, N.H. – And then there were two. With Martin O’Malley ending his presidential bid earlier in the week, Democratic nominees Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders had the stage to themselves Thursday evening at the University of New Hampshire in what was perhaps the most contentious Democratic debate of this campaign season. With the […]
DURHAM, N.H. – And then there were two.
With Martin O’Malley ending his presidential bid earlier in the week, Democratic nominees Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders had the stage to themselves Thursday evening at the University of New Hampshire in what was perhaps the most contentious Democratic debate of this campaign season.
With the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, Feb. 9, MSNBC moderators Rachel Maddow and Chuck Todd gave the Democratic nominees their first real chance to have a no-holds-barred discussion on policy, campaign tactics and leading their party.
“Millions of Americans are giving up on the political process. And they’re giving up on the political process because they understand the economy is rigged,” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said in his opening statement.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is trying to close the nearly 20 point gap she faces in New Hampshire, responded in her opening statement to the challenges that remain beyond fixing the campaign process.
“Of course we have special interests that are unfortunately doing too much to rig the game. But there’s also the continuing challenges of racism, of sexism, of discrimination against the LGBT community, of the way we treat people as opposed to how we want to be treated,” she said.
Much of the first half of the debate focused on the idea of the candidates as progressives, with Clinton refuting Sanders’ claim that she doesn’t subscribe to that label.
“I am a progressive who gets things done,” Clinton said, a sentiment she repeated a few times throughout the evening. “But I’ve heard Sen. Sanders’ comments and it’s really caused me to wonder who’s left in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Under his definition, President Obama is not progressive because he took donations from Wall Street. And Vice President Biden isn’t progressive because he supported (the Keystone Pipeline).”
Sanders, who thinks that his democratic socialist platform places him as the most prominent candidate in some time who is truly progressive, took the opportunity to examine what he perceives as his challenger’s true political identity.
“She was in Ohio, I think, in September or November, and she got up and said something like, ‘I have been criticized because people think I’m a moderate. Well, I am a moderate,’” Sanders recalled.
Following what some call a virtual tie at the Iowa Caucus, Clinton jumped on the opportunity to take a few swipes at New Hampshire frontrunner Sanders before Tuesday’s primary.
“Time and time again, by innuendo and insinuation, there is this attack he is putting forth, which really comes down to anybody who ever took donations or speaking fees from any interest group has to be bought,” Clinton said, setting a tense tone for the debate that was largely nonexistent up until that point. “So I think it’s time to end the very artful smear that you and your campaign have been carrying out.”
However, as the debate wound down, both candidates remained committed to avoiding the pointed attacks employed by their Republican counterparts.
When Chuck Todd asked about the ongoing investigation into Clinton’s use of a private server for classified emails, Sanders reiterated he had no intention of making this campaign about something it’s not.
“I am feeling exactly the way I felt at the first debate. There’s a process under way. I will not politicize it,” Sanders said.
And when Rachel Maddow asked Clinton to respond with her thoughts on an earlier incident when Sanders’ campaign mistakenly attributed an endorsement from a newspaper, she simply replied, “No.”
When the questions moved towards issue-centric topics, the two candidates mostly offered up similar opinions.
Both Clinton and Sanders agreed on the severity of the water crisis in Flint, Mich., both are against privatizing the Department of Veterans Affairs and neither are for sending combat troops into Syria.
Rounding out this more congenial section of the debate was the question of potential running mates, which both candidates agreed was getting too far ahead of themselves.
“I happen to respect the secretary very much, I hope it’s mutual,” Sanders said. “And on our worst days, I think it is fair to say we are 100 times better than any Republican candidate.”