AMES, Iowa — Facing a narrowing primary contest, Hillary Clinton ripped into rival Bernie Sanders on Tuesday, saying the Vermont senator was offering unrealistic policies and overstating his anti-establishment credentials.
For days, Clinton has cast Sanders as a less forceful advocate for gun control, honing in on a 2005 vote he cast that gave immunity to gun manufacturers. On Tuesday, she broadened her critique, arguing that if Sanders wouldn’t combat the National Rifle Association, he can’t be trusted to take on other special interests.
“If you’re going to go around saying you stand up to special interests, then stand up to that most powerful special interest — stand up to the gun lobby,” she said, as she accepted the backing of a major gun control advocacy group.
Clinton added: “Don’t talk to me about standing up to corporate interests and big powers. I’ve got the scars to show for it.”
Sanders campaign spokesman Michael Briggs said the senator had “spent a career standing up to powerful special interests whether they be Wall Street, big banks or Big Oil or the pharmaceutical industry, you name it.”
Briggs added, “He has also stood up to the National Rifle Association,” noting that Sanders lost a 1988 congressional race in part because he supported a ban on assault weapons.
The fresh critique marks an effort by Clinton to undermine the central argument of Sanders’ campaign— that the Vermont senator is an outsider offering liberals a “political revolution.” At one point, she alluded to his mantra, telling supporters, “If that’s the kind of ‘revolution’ he’s talking about, I’m worried, folks.”
With a touch of sarcasm, Clinton derided Sanders’ plans for a single-payer Medicare-for-all system and said President Barack Obama’s work to pass an overhaul to the nation’s health care system was a major accomplishment.
“I wish that we could elect a Democrat who could wave a magic wand and say, ‘We shall do this and we shall do that.’ That ain’t the real world we’re living in,” Clinton said. In Dubuque, Clinton said she hoped that Sanders “hurries up” and releases more details of his tax plan “because you deserve to see the comparisons side-by-side.”
In an emailed fundraising appeal, Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver dismissed Clinton’s criticism and instead reiterated the senator’s goal of guaranteeing health care for all Americans.
“It is a national disgrace that the United States is the only major country in the world that does not offer health care as a right,” Weaver said. “We need a president who will fight for the 29 million Americans without health care.”