MANCHESTER, New Hampshire — Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that it was a “low blow” for rival Bernie Sanders to say she is a progressive only “some days,” even as Sanders’ campaign defends the comment.
Speaking at an event in Derry, New Hampshire Wednesday morning, Clinton rattled off a list of progressive issues she’s worked on, from health care reform to fighting the privatization of Social Security. “If it’s about our records, hey, I’m gonna win by a landslide,” Clinton said.
The former secretary of state added that she was “disappointed” by Sanders’s comment, which he made the day earlier while campaigning in the Granite State. Asked by MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt if Clinton is a progressive, Sanders replied, “Some days, yeah…except when she announces that she is a proud moderate. And then I guess she’s not a progressive.”
The Clinton campaign quickly and aggressively fired back, expressing disappointment in the senator’s comments.
“You’re progressive enough, Hillary,” Clinton spokesperson Jennifer Palmieri said on Twitter, referencing a controversial comment Barack Obama made during a similar period between the Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire Democratic primary in 2008 when he said she was “likable enough.”
That remark eight years ago was thought to have helped inspire sympathy for Clinton, who came back from a significant polling deficit to win New Hampshire.
Sanders’s top strategist Tad Devine defended his candidate to MSNBC, saying Sanders’s comment was no mistake because Clinton herself said in September that she is a moderate.
“You know, I get accused of being kind of moderate, center. I plead guilty,” Clinton said last year in Columbus, Ohio. Clinton was referring to an attempt to find a compromise with President George W. Bush over tax cuts when she was in the Senate.
Devine said Sanders “did not impose those words on her, those words came out of her mouth.” “If she wants to renounce that statement, or somehow disavow it,” Devine added, that would change things.
The strategist pointed to a list of issues where he said Clinton was not progressive, including her stance on the death penalty and on the Syrian no-fly zone. “I could go on for a while,” he said as he mentioned issues. “No, I don’t think Bernie made a mistake by pointing out that Sec. Clinton in this campaign – not 20 years ago – said she gets accused to being moderate and centrist and pledged guilty to that claim,” he concluded.
Both campaigns seem to think this is a winning issue for them. For Clinton, it’s an excuse to talk about her progressive record while also promoting the idea that Sanders is being unfairly harsh. For Sanders, whose campaign tweeted out video of the exchange Wednesday, it may play well with his support base, which includes many who think Clinton is not progressive enough.
The exchange comes just a day before MSNBC’s New Hampshire debate, where the two candidates will face-off one-on-one for the first time in the final days before New Hampshire’s primary.