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Sanders: Clinton's the One Who's Not 'Qualified' to Be President

Sanders: Clinton's the One Who's Not 'Qualified' to Be President

Thursday, 07 April 2016 07:37 AM EDT

Bernie Sanders fired back at Hillary Clinton, saying she is not "qualified" to be president, escalating the rhetoric in an increasingly tense Democratic primary heading into delegate-rich New York. 

During a rally at Temple University in Philadelphia Wednesday, Sanders listed Wall Street donations to Clinton's super-PAC, as well as her support for past trade deals and the war in Iraq as reasons why she didn't meet the requirements for the job.

"She has been saying lately that she thinks I am not quote unquote qualified to be president," Sanders told a crowd of approximately 9,000. "Let me just say in response to Secretary Clinton: I don’t believe that she is qualified if she is, through her super-PAC, taking tens of millions of dollars in special interests funds."

Sanders' remarks come on the heels of his 13-point win in Wisconsin, his sixth victory since March 15. Earlier Wednesday, Clinton gave a series of interviews in which she sharpened her criticisms against her opponent. 

During an interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Clinton was asked if she believed Sanders was qualified to be president following his interview with the editorial board of the New York Daily News. Sanders' lack of specificity on subjects ranging from his views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the question of whether to break up the country's largest banks, have drawn criticism. Clinton said it seemed like Sanders "hadn’t done his homework" but declined to directly answer the question, saying it was up to voters "to decide who of us can do the job that the country needs, who can do all aspects of the job, both on the economic domestic issues and on national security and foreign policy."

In a fundraising e-mail to supporters prior to the Vermont senator's Philadelphia rally, Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver called her comments "the first part of the new ‘disqualify him, defeat him and then they can unify the party later’ strategy."

"We knew they were getting nervous, but candidly, we didn't think they would go this negative so quickly," he wrote.

Following the rally, where Sanders upped his rhetoric against Clinton, his campaign pointed to a Washington Post blog post titled, "Clinton questions whether Sanders is qualified to be president," by way of explaining his speech. 

The Clinton campaign, however, was quick to point out that Sanders had misquoted her. "Hillary Clinton did not say Bernie Sanders was ‘not qualified.’ But he has now—absurdly—said it about her. This is a new low," Clinton press secretary Brian Fallon wrote on Twitter shortly after Sanders made his comments.

Fallon also suggested that Sanders' comments and other recent moves by his campaign reflect the desperation of a losing campaign and called on Sanders to "take back your words about Hillary Clinton." 

The Sanders campaign, however, appears to be doubling down on his remarks. An evening press release highlighted his comments, including his criticism of her support for the Panama free trade agreement as Secretary of State, which Sanders said "has made it easier for wealthy people and corporations all over the world to avoid paying taxes owed to their countries."

Three hours after Sanders made his comments at Temple, the Clinton campaign used his words in a fundraising appeal. "This is a ridiculous and irresponsible attack for someone to make—not just against the person who is almost certainly going to be the nominee of their party this November, but against someone who is one of the most qualified people to run for the presidency in the HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES," an email signed by deputy communications director Christina Reynolds said.

While the two Democratic presidential candidates have taken pride in the fact that their contest has focused on issues rather than personal attacks, these latest salvos foreshadow a more negative phase of the campaign heading into the crucial New York primary. A loss in her home state, or even a narrow win, may raise questions about the strength of Clinton's support within the Democratic Party. 

During his election night speech celebrating his Wisconsin win on Tuesday, Sanders said he has an "excellent" chance of winning the state. He plans to campaign aggressively in the state and his campaign has polled which policy distinctions will work best with voters. A March 31 Quinnipiac poll showed Clinton leading Sanders in the state by 12 percentage points. 

The consolation for Clinton is that it would take a landslide Sanders victory to change the delegate math. After Tuesday's election, Clinton has 1,279 pledged delegates to Sanders’ 1,027, according to an Associated Press tally. When including superdelegates, party officials and leaders who can back any candidate, Clinton’s lead is 1,749 to Sanders’ 1,061 with 2,383 needed for the nomination. 

© Copyright 2024 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

Bernie Sanders fired back at Hillary Clinton, saying she is not qualified to be president, escalating the rhetoric in an increasingly tense Democratic primary heading into delegate-rich New York.
sanders, clinton, qualified, president
Thursday, 07 April 2016 07:37 AM
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