UPDATED at 11:10pm
DURHAM, N.H. (AP) — Fireworks flying in their first one-on-one debate, Hillary Clinton accused Bernie Sanders Thursday night of subjecting her to an “artful smear” while Sanders suggested the former secretary of state was a captive of the political establishment.
The two Democrats kept up a markedly more contentious tone than when they last debated before the year’s presidential voting began in Iowa, and it signaled how the race for the nomination has tightened five days ahead of the first-in-the-nation primary in New Hampshire next Tuesday.
The two argued over ideas, over tactics and over who has the liberal credentials to deliver on an agenda of better access to health care, more affordable college, dealing with income inequality and more.
It was Clinton who was the main aggressor, saying Sanders could never achieve his ambitious and costly proposals. Then she took after the Vermont senator for his efforts to cast her as beholden to Wall Street interests because of the campaign donations and speaking fees she’s accepted from the financial sector.
“It’s time to end the very artful smear that you and your campaign have been carrying out,” she said.
Sanders, for his part, suggested Clinton’s loyalties were colored by a reliance on big corporate donors.
“Secretary Clinton does represent the establishment,” he said. “I represent — I hope — ordinary Americans.”
Clinton may say the right things, he suggested, but “one of the things we should do is not only talk the talk but walk the walk.”
Where Clinton aimed considerable criticism at Sanders, the Vermont senator focused much of his fire on what he says is a political system rigged against ordinary Americans.
He said that when a “kid gets caught with marijuana, that kid has a police record.” But when “a Wall Street executive destroys the economy” and pays a $5 billion settlement, he has no criminal record.
“That is what power is about, that is what corruption is about. And that is what has to change in the United States of America,” he said.