Politics & Policy

Sanders Attacks Clinton on Keystone, Campaign Finance in South Carolina

(File photo: Alex Wong/Getty)

Insurgent Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders continued to turn up the heat on frontrunner Hillary Clinton during a South Carolina forum attended by both candidates on Friday, calling her an establishment candidate who only “talks the talk” on campaign-finance reform and attacking her indecision on the Keystone Pipeline.

Sanders refused to attack Clinton while her campaign reeled from a private e-mail scandal last summer. But after a strong debate performance, Vice President Biden’s decision not to run, and a solid showing before the Benghazi Committee contributed to a Clinton polling surge last month, Sanders seems to have reluctantly slipped off the gloves.

“The media drives me nuts,” he told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Friday. “I can’t walk, now, anywhere in this nation’s capital without people begging me to beat up on Hillary Clinton. ‘Attack Hillary Clinton, tell me why she’s the worst person in the world.’ And I resisted, and resisted, and resisted.”

“Having said that, I would not have run for president if I believed that establishment politics and establishment economics would solve the very serious problems that we face,” he continued. “I have many disagreements with Hillary Clinton. And one of them is, I don’t think it’s good enough to talk the talk on campaign-finance reform. You have to walk the walk. I am the only Democratic candidate that does not have a super PAC. I am not asking millionaires and billionaires for large contributions.”

#share#Sanders also hit Clinton on the Keystone Pipeline — a project Sanders resisted from day one and an issue Clinton refused to address for months. “For me, as opposed to maybe some other unnamed candidates, the issue of Keystone was kind of a no brainer,” he said.

And he stuck to his relatively-moderate position on gun control, defiantly repeating a criticism of Clinton’s anti-gun stance that she’s called sexist. “If we are going to make progress on this issue — and I know Hillary Clinton has kind of misstated my view — we are going to have to stop shouting at each other,” Sanders said.

#related#Always the underdog, Sanders’s fast-slipping poll numbers in Iowa and New Hampshire seem to have convinced him that he must run a more negative campaign or risk withering away. “I disagree with Hillary Clinton on virtually everything,” Sanders told the Boston Globe on Thursday. And though he told a Democratic debate audience last month that he was “sick and tired of hearing about [her] damn e-mails,” on Wednesday Sanders explained that her use of a private server was a “legitimate question” and the FBI investigation of the former secretary of state should “proceed unimpeded.”

Clinton, who spoke separately at the MSNBC-moderated debate, didn’t once mention Sanders or allude to his candidacy — perhaps a sign of her newly-dominant position in South Carolina. Polls have swung Clinton’s direction of late: 71 percent of likely Democratic primary voters prefer Clinton in the state, while only 15 percent back Sanders. Much of that support stems from South Carolina’s large African-American community, and Clinton took pains to address their concerns about police militarization and gun violence.

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