Clinton and Sanders Make Final Pitch to Michigan Voters
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders made last bids for support in Michigan's Democratic primary Tuesday, with both arguing they would be able to navigate the gridlock in Washington that's spawned anger among voters of both political parties.
In back-to-back appearances at a town hall hosted by Fox News in Detroit, the two candidates picked up where they left off after Sunday's debate in Flint, answering questions on the economy, national security, abortion rights, education, and working with Republicans.
For the most part, Clinton and Sanders passed over questions designed to pit them against each other. Asked whether he's more trustworthy than Clinton, Sanders said, “I will let the people of the United States make that decision.” Clinton, asked whether she views Sanders as an opponent or an ally, called the Vermont senator an ally.
“If I am so fortunate, I hope to work with him because the issues he has raised, the passion he has demonstrated, the people he has attracted are going to be very important in the general election, but equally following the election to try to get things done,” she said.
Asked if he would be willing to become Clinton's running mate, Sanders said he is “talking about running this campaign to win.” Clinton said she was focused on the Michigan primary, not who her running mate might be.
Sanders is running out of opportunities to challenge Clinton's lead in the Democratic presidential race. She is already half-way to winning enough delegates to secure the nomination. That means Sanders needs a major score in the next round of delegate-rich primaries: Tuesday in Michigan and Mississippi and contests one week later in Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, and Ohio.
Sanders is emphasizing his opposition to free-trade accords that he says have led to the decline of manufacturing jobs, a potentially potent issue in the state that is home to the U.S. auto industry.
“One of the strong differences of opinion that Secretary Clinton and I have, I have helped lead the opposition against every one of these terrible trade programs,” Sanders said. “I don't believe American workers should be forced to compete against desperate people around the world who are making pennies an hour.”
Anticipating that line of attack, Clinton took Sanders by surprise during CNN's Sunday night debate when she criticized him for voting against the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the bailout of the financial industry that also provided $85 billion in relief to the automobile industry.
“I voted to save the auto industry,” Clinton said Sunday. “He voted against the money that ended up saving the auto industry. I think that is a pretty big difference.”
On Monday, Sanders was on offensive, telling an audience in Kalamazoo, Michigan, that Clinton “went out of her way to mischaracterize” his vote. Sanders said he voted for the auto bailout when it came before the Senate as a separate bill that ultimately failed, and later voted against TARP. The senator has said Clinton’s comments on the auto bailout are an attempt to distract from her past support for various trade deals and Wall Street.
Michigan is a crucial state for Sanders, who is fighting a growing perception that his campaign is more about pushing his agenda than actually winning the nomination. Despite winning caucuses in Kansas, Nebraska, and Maine over the weekend, Sanders has yet to win a large, delegate rich state. There are 130 delegates up for grabs in Michigan.
After a series of victories, including eight Super Tuesday contests, Clinton leads Sanders by almost 200 pledged delegates won in primaries and caucuses. When super delegates—party members who are free to chose who they will support—are taken into account, Clinton has 1,130 of the 2,383 needed to win the nomination, compared with 499 for Sanders, according to a tally compiled by the Associated Press.
Sanders has hoped that his opposition to trade deals will resonate with the Michigan's blue-collar workers. According to a Monmouth University poll of likely Democratic primary voters in the state released Monday, Clinton leads Sanders by 13 points, 55 percent to 42 percent.
The two Democrats also are scheduled to take part in a debate Wednesday in Florida.