Two days after a landslide defeat in New Hampshire, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sought to corner Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders on a debate stage on details for his expansive government programs, questioning how her opponent plans to pay for and accomplish single-payer health care and free college tuition.
“We should level with the American people to make sure they get affordable health care … every progressive economist that has analyzed this said the numbers don’t add up,” Clinton said. “We should not make promises we can’t keep that will further alienate Americans from believing that we can together make some real changes in peoples lives.”
“The last thing we need is to throw our country into a contentious debate about health care again,” she continued. “We are not England we are not Sweden.”
The two met for a debate in Milwaukee on Thursday night, and early on, the two clashed on health care, called for criminal-justice reform and pay equity for women.
With the race tenser and closer than either Democratic candidate had imagined, Thursday night’s debate was sharper, tenser and more combative than previous debates, and both candidates are expecting an increasingly acrimonious campaign. “They’re throwing everything at me except the kitchen sink, and I have a feeling that kitchen sink is coming pretty soon too,” Sanders told a crowd on the night of his victory in New Hampshire.
It is the second one-on-one debate between the two Democratic candidates for President. So far from the contests in New Hampshire and Iowa, Sanders has won more delegates than Clinton by a margin of 36 to 32.
Criminal-justice reform became a major issue early on in the debate, with Sanders and Clinton both calling for an overhaul. “We are sick and tired of seeing videos on television of unarmed people, often African American, being shot and killed by police,” Sanders said.
The next two primary contests in Nevada and South Carolina, both have large populations of Latinos and blacks, two groups among whom Clinton tends to poll much better than Sanders. Sanders, meanwhile, will seek to test Clinton’s ability to perform well among minorities.
Sanders has criticized Clinton for taking Wall Street donations and giving paid speeches to financial institutions. In the previous debate last week in Durham, N.H., Clinton accused Sanders of making an “artful smear” against her, and challenged him to point to a case in which she was influenced by her donations. Sanders did not. If Sanders does criticize her more personally on Thursday night, it would reflect a significant turn in the tone of the race.
Clinton questioned Sanders’ foreign policy experience in the previous debate, and her allies have pointed to a mistake Sanders made last week when he said North Korea “is such an isolated country run by a handful of dictators, or maybe just one.” (North Korea has only one dictator.) Sanders had pointed to his vote against the Iraq War.
The two are preparing for a long nomination fight, with Sanders amassing huge funding from a robust online fundraising operation. The Vermont Senator raised more than $6 million in the 24 hours after the New Hampshire polls closed.