Sunday night’s Democratic primary debate showed a more concerned side of Hillary Clinton — going after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) with more seriousness about the threat he faces.
And Sanders, usually not one to boast about his poll prowess, channeled a bit of Donald Trump on the debate stage in Charleston: needling Clinton onstage about his popularity with voters.
“As Secretary Clinton well knows, when this campaign began she was 50 points ahead of me. We were all of three percentage points. Guess what? In Iowa, New Hampshire, the race is very, very close. Maybe we’re ahead New Hampshire,” Sanders said, evoking cheers from the South Carolina audience.
“In terms of polling, guess what? We are running ahead of Secretary Clinton. In terms of taking on my taking on my good friend, Donald Trump, beating him by 19 points in New Hampshire, 13 points in the last national poll that we saw.”
Asked about Clinton trumping Sanders when it comes to the support of minority voters, Bernie insisted that “when the African-American community becomes familiar with my congressional record and with our agenda, and with our views on the economy, and criminal justice — just as the general population has become more supportive, so will the African-American community, so will the Latino community.”
“We have the momentum, we’re on a path to a victory,” he added.
In terms of African-American supporters, Sanders had rapper Killer Mike officially stumping for him in the post-debate spin room. The rapper quipped to reporters that he decided to back Bernie “after smoking a joint and reading his tweets.”
Clinton went after Sanders on several issues including guns. “He voted to let guns go onto the Amtrak, guns go into National Parks. He voted against doing research to figure out how we can save lives. Let’s not forget what this is about, 90 people a day die from gun violence in our country. That’s 33,000 people a year,” she said. On the campaign trail, she called him “a pretty reliable vote for the gun lobby.”
Sanders noted, “I think Secretary Clinton knows that what she says is very disingenuous.”
“We have seen in this city a horrendous tragedy of a crazed person praying with people coming up and shooting nine people. This should not be a political issue. What we should be doing is working together,” he said. “And by the way, as a senator from a rural state that has virtually no gun control, I believe that I am in an excellent position to bring people together.”
Sanders and Clinton especially tangled on her backing from Wall Street — and his campaign sent out a list of her corporate donors and six-figure speaking fees to underscore his arguments.
Clinton insisted “there’s no daylight on the basic premise that there should be no bank too big to fail and no individual too powerful to jail.”
“We agree on that. But where we disagree is the comments that Senator Sanders has made that don’t just affect me, I can take that, but he’s criticized President Obama for taking donations from Wall Street, and President Obama has led our country out of the great recession,” she said.
That led Clinton’s segue into another strategy of the evening: painting Sanders as anti-Obama.
“Senator Sanders called him weak, disappointing. He even, in 2011, publicly sought someone to run in a primary against President Obama,” she said.
Sanders shot back that Clinton should “set the record right.”
“In 2006 when I ran for the Senate, Senator Barack Obama was kind enough to campaign for me, 2008, I did my best to see that he was elected and in 2012, I worked as hard as I could to see that he was reelected. He and I are friends. We’ve worked together on many issues. We have some differences of opinion,” the senator said.
“But here is the issue, Secretary touched on it, can you really reform Wall Street when they are spending millions and millions of dollars on campaign contributions and when they are providing speaker fees to individuals? So it’s easy to say, well, I’m going to do this and do that, but I have doubts when people receive huge amounts of money from Wall Street.”
“Your profusion of comments about your feelings towards President Obama are a little strange given what you said about him in 2011,” Clinton retorted.
“But look, I have a plan that most commentators have said is tougher, more effective, and more comprehensive,” she added, turning back to Wall Street reform.
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley interjected: “That’s not true.”