Published in The New Hampshire, Feb. 4, 2016
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ripped into Sen. Bernie Sanders last Thursday night at the UNH debate, where the campaign trail intensified as only four days remained until the state’s primary.
“Sen. Sanders says he wants to run a positive campaign,” Clinton said to a crowd of 600 at the Johnson Theatre in the Paul Creative Arts Center. “By innuendo, by insinuation, there is this attack he is putting forth. I really don’t think these kinds of attacks by insinuation are worthy of yo
u. If you have something to say, say it directly.”
Clinton accused Sanders of carrying out an “artful smear” and targeting her campaign finances and big money funders, which ended up being a main focus of the night.
The debate, moderated by NBC’s Chuck Todd and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, went well over the allotted 90-min
ute airtime. Clinton and Sanders went head to head on Wall Street money, foreign affairs agenda and the economic system. But most of all, the political campaigns themselves and party ideologies were at the forefront of the debate.
“Let’s not be making an accusation about where I stand and where I’ve always stood,” Clinton said after her position as a progressive was questioned. “It is fair to say, Senator, that in your definition, as you being the self-proclaimed gatekeeper for progressivism, I don’t know anyone else who fits that definition. But I know a lot of really hard fighting progressives in the Democratic party who have stood up time and time again against special interests, against the powerful on behalf of those who are left behind and left out.”
Sanders followed up with, “Talk the talk, but walk the walk. I am very proud to be the only candidate up here who does not have a Super PAC, who’s not raising huge sums of money from Wall Street.”
Before the debate, NBC News polls reported Sanders led in New Hampshire with 58 percent and Clinton at 38 percent.
When talking foreign policy, Sanders was adamant about not deploying troops to the Middle East.
“It must be Muslim troops on the ground who will destroy ISIS with the support of a coalition,” he said. Sanders also referenced his 2002 vote against the war in Iraq.
“A vote in 2002 is not a plan to defeat ISIS,” Clinton fired back. Clinton agreed boots on the ground should not be increased, but poked holes in Sanders’ foreign policy.
“A group of national security experts, military intelligence experts, issued a very concerning statement about Senator Sanders’s views on foreign policy and national security, pointing out some of the comments he has made on these issues, such as inviting Iranian troops into Syria to try to resolve the conflict there; putting them right at the doorstep of Israel,” Clinton said.
Prior to the event, support for Sanders was evident outside of the debate venue, as masses of students chanted while holding signs. A band played music and crowd-goers sang, “This is what democracy looks like.” Support for Sanders was overwhelming among the university students.
Rachel Morelle, a freshman from Salem, was enthusiastically promoting Sanders at the rally before Thursday’s debate. “He is out of all the candidates the most genuine,” Morelle said. “He feels like one of the people. His whole campaign is funded by people like you and me.”
Most Clinton supporters outside of the theater were involved in the campaign and therefore could not speak with media. But a larger Clinton gathering was held at Three Chimneys Inn in Durham on Newmarket Road prior to the debate. One student’s handwritten sign read, “A woman’s place is in the Oval Office.” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said after the debate that student votes could change the outcome of the election. Shaheen endorsed Clinton back in September.
“As I have talked to students, they’re concerned about how they are going to pay off their student debt, they’re concerned what we’re going to do about climate change, they’re concerned about equal pay for women and what their futures are going to look like,” she said. “I hope they turn out and they turn out for Hillary.”
New Hampshire voters will take to the polls on Tuesday and essentially set the tone for the election process. Granite State residents are notorious for making last minute decisions, giving polls very little pull in the matter. In 2008, a week prior to the primary, polls had Barack Obama winning New Hampshire. After all of the votes had been cast, Clinton had come back to win the state.
And while policy differences were evident , the candidates did agree on one thing.
And on our worst days, I think it is fair to say we are 100 times better than any Republican candidates,” Sanders said.