With NY primary approaching, Democrats get in the mud

Ahead of the New York primary on April 19, Senator Bernie Sanders (I–VT) and Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have gotten themselves tied up in a media back-and-forth.

This week’s victory in Wisconsin looked like a turning point for the Sanders campaign. Even though Clinton still leads the race by 219 delegates, Sanders’ performances since March 22 have claimed him 181 delegates to Clinton’s 102. Now the 247 delegates to be doled out in New York mean more than before. The pressure is on Sanders to keep up his momentum, and even more so for Clinton to maintain her once-powerful lead.

However, the news has not been all good for the senator. Sanders’ credibility was damaged early this week when his answers in an interview with The New York Daily News left voters feeling unsettled. His answers about breaking up big banks and foreign policy had many people openly questioning his policy knowledge.

Clinton also began to float attacks on Senator Sanders.

On Wednesday morning, following her defeat in Wisconsin, Clinton made waves on her press rounds when Joe Scarborough of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” directly asked Clinton four times if she finds Sanders qualified for the presidency. She never answered him with a yes or no, but conceded that she felt he “hadn’t done his homework.” In a write-up of the interview, The Washington Post lent it the headline “Clinton questions whether Sanders is qualified to be president”.

Also on Wednesday, Politico’s podcast “Off Message” published an interview with Clinton from Friday, April 1, where she jabbed, “[Sanders is] a relatively new Democrat, and, in fact, I’m not even sure he is one.”

Finally, CNN posted a report on Clinton’s New York strategy that they boiled down to three points: “Disqualify him, defeat him, and unify the party later.”

Sanders ended the day in Philadelphia ramping up his offense in response to the perceived attacks from the Clinton camp. At a rally hosted by Temple University, Sanders suggested that “The American people may want to wonder about [her] qualifications when [she’s] spending an enormous amount of time raising money for [her] super PAC from some of the wealthiest people in this country and from the most outrageous special interests.” He also called into question her stance on the Iraq War and her voting record on “disastrous” trade agreements that resulted in American jobs being outsourced.

Within minutes of Sanders’ remark hitting the press, Clinton took the high road on ABC News, saying, “Let’s keep our eye on what’s really at stake in this election. We have Republicans whose values are so antithetical to what’s right for New York or right for America, and I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing.” Clinton supporters also noted that she herself never questioned Sanders’ qualifications.

Since then, some observers have found Sanders remarks about Clinton’s qualifications to be sexist. Sanders has backtracked into a more complicated stance, claiming that she’s both qualified and unqualified. In an appearance on The View on Friday, Sanders repeated his disapproval of Clinton’s support of big banks, the Iraq War, and NAFTA, but acknowledged her experience, specifically her success as First Lady. Sanders added that, regardless of how the primaries go, he’d still rather see a Democrat win the general than “a Donald Trump or some other right-wing Republican.”

Clinton and Sanders can agree on a common enemy for now, but on Friday, April 14 at 9 p.m., they’ll return to their home turf in Brooklyn to face off in the next debate hosted by CNN and NY1. Clinton still leads in polls, but with the rocky climate and Sanders’ continuing gains, the New York primaries — and the Democratic Primary — are far from being called.