Sanders Says He Won't Back Off Criticism of Wall Street

  • Sanders, Clinton address Nevada voters at televised town hall
  • Race has been getting closer after early Clinton advantage

Can Bernie Sanders Win in Nevada?

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said he won’t back away from his signature campaign issue -- that Wall Street rigged the economy -- and dismissed Hillary Clinton’s criticism that he’s a “one-issue candidate.”

Answering questions during a televised town hall meeting Thursday night in Las Vegas, Sanders said that in appearances while campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination he covers 15 to 20 different issues. But the biggest issue is the economic well-being of the middle class, he said.

“Do I believe that there has to be a major focus on the economy when the middle class is disappearing?” Sanders said in response to questioning by Chuck Todd of NBC News and Jose Diaz-Balart of the Spanish-language channel Telemundo. “Yeah, I’m going to focus on that.”

Clinton was to appear later to answer questions from the moderator and members of the audience at the town hall broadcast on MSNBC and Telemundo. It will be the last opportunity for the two candidates to appear before a statewide audience before Nevada’s Democratic presidential caucus on Saturday.

Closing Race

Sanders is seeking to overcome Clinton’s early advantage in Nevada as the Democratic front-runner. The former secretary of state started her campaign and organizing in the Silver State months before Sanders, and she has secured most of the endorsements of elected officials and political leaders.

The Vermont senator ramped up his Nevada campaign starting in October, opening 12 offices across the state and investing millions of dollars in television and radio ads. Buoyed by his narrow loss to Clinton in the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1 and his victory by more than 22 percentage points in the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 9, Sanders is hoping to continue his momentum and break what the Clinton campaign has thought would be a firewall heading into contests in South Carolina on Feb. 27 and in other states on Super Tuesday, March 1, where she is favored.

There’s been very little polling in Nevada, though a survey by CNN/ORC International released on Wednesday shows Sanders and Clinton essentially tied. However, the poll of 282 likely Nevada Democratic caucus-goers had a margin of error of plus or minus 6 percentage points.

With Hispanics comprising about 28 percent of Nevada’s population, Clinton has made a months-long outreach to the Latino community in the state and has been emphasizing the issue of immigration in the final days of the campaign.

Clinton is running a new television ad capturing a moment at a Feb. 14 event in Las Vegas when an emotional young girl says she is worried about her parents getting deported. Clinton takes the girl into her lap, tells her she’s being brave and promises, “I’ll do the worrying, I’ll do everything I can to help.”

The campaign also held a conference call for reporters on Thursday with Hispanic supporters, including Julian Castro, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Dolores Huerta, who co-founded what would become the United Farm Workers union with Cesar Chavez. They highlighted Sanders’s votes in the Senate, including against a 2007 immigration overhaul bill.

“Senator Sanders consistently wasn’t there when we needed him the most,” Castro said on the call. “I’m convinced that if the past is any indication of what the future holds, that Senator Sanders will continue to let us down, and that Hillary will be there fighting for immigrants and for the Latino community.”

Sanders has said he was concerned about the impact the 2007 bill would have on immigrants and low-income workers, and he has defended his record on the issue while emphasizing his history as the son of a Polish immigrant.

The CNN/ORC poll showed that the economy was by far the most important issue among likely Democratic caucus-goers, and Sanders is emphasizing his message about Wall Street greed contributing to the collapse of the housing market and the Great Recession. Nevada was particularly hard hit and had the highest monthly foreclosure rate in the U.S. for five years until February 2012, according to the data firm RealtyTrac.

The Vermont senator is talking about the economy during his events in Nevada and is airing a television ad about the foreclosure crisis with Erin Bilbray, a state Democratic committeewoman and superdelegate who is backing Sanders. In the ad, she blames Wall Street and says voters are “looking for somebody that is going to create bold change.”

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