As Democratic Race Tightens, Sanders and Clinton Trade Blows
Policy + Politics

As Democratic Race Tightens, Sanders and Clinton Trade Blows

ABC News

With polls showing that the Democratic primary race between Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is tightening up, both candidates are going after each other more aggressively, with Clinton slamming Sanders for voting with the National Rifle Association, and Sanders crowing about polling data that consistently shows him performing better in head-to-head matchups with Republicans than Clinton does.

Just weeks away from early voting, Clinton has been clinging to a lead in Iowa, while Sanders leads by small margin in New Hampshire, the next-door neighbor to his adopted home state.

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However, two new polls released Sunday show both races may be tightening. In Iowa, an NBC News poll conducted with Marist University found that Clinton’s lead had shrunk to three percentage points, with a 48-45 lead over Sanders. That’s both well within the margin of error, and considerably closer than the Real Clear Politics average of recent polls.

The same poll in New Hampshire found that Clinton appears to have gained some ground on Sanders in the Granite State, where NBC/Marist found Sanders leading by only 4 points, 50-46. That is also within the margin of error and is a smaller lead that the RCP average of 4.7 percent.

A plainly energized Sanders appeared on ABC’s This Week on Sunday morning and said, “I believe, quite honestly, that with the enthusiasm that we are generating, with the kind of voter turnout that I think we can bring out -- look, Republicans win when people are demoralized and the voter turnout is low. Democrats and progressives when I when working people and low-income people and young people get involved in the political process.

“I think the fact that we are bringing forth a message on issue after issue that are -- are being supported by the American people, whether it's job creation, raising the minimum wage, climate change, making public colleges and universities -- public colleges and universities tuition-free, those are the issues that the American people are being galvanized around. They want us to take on the billionaire class and the greed of corporate America. That's what our campaign is about. And that's why I think we have the momentum.”

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Challenged by host George Stephanopolous on the claim by some detractors that he has an electability problem in a general election, Sanders pointed to the head-to-head numbers that show him performing better than Clinton against Republican nominees.

“So if people are concerned about electability, and Democrats should be very concerned, because we certainly do not want to see some right-wing extremist in the White House, I think Bernie Sanders is the candidate,” he said. “We're doing much better with Independents. We even draw a little bit better with Republicans.”

Appearing on CBS’s Face the Nation, Clinton told host John Dickerson that she isn’t paying much attention to the polls, and is just focused on her campaign. However, Clinton has been notably aggressive in going after Sander in recent days. Particularly for his vote on a controversial bill that, among other things, shields gun sellers from liability if firearms they sell are used in criminal activities.

"That is not what I want and that is not what the country wants and that is no what President Obama called for,” she said. “I think he has been consistently refusing to say that he would vote to repeal this absolute immunity from any kind of responsibly or liability.”

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Sanders has since said that he would be willing to take a second look at the bill, which he described as complex and full of some provisions he liked more than others.

Clinton said, “I think the excuses and efforts by Sen. Sanders to avoid responsibility for this vote ... points up a clear difference and is a difference Democrats voters in our primary can take into account, who is going to really stand up to the gun lobby.”

The two candidates will have a chance to square off in person in one week, when the fourth Democratic debate is held Sunday January 17 in Charleston, SC. The time for the debate isn’t set, but it will be competing with a pair of NFL playoff games scheduled for the same day.