Democratic debate 2016: Hillary Clinton takes attack to Bernie Sanders on gun control and healthcare
Published 18/01/2016 | 06:58
Hillary Clinton, the US Democratic presidential front-runner, used a televised debate on Sunday to accuse her rival, Bernie Sanders, of being inconsistent on regulating Wall Street, weak on gun control and unrealistic in his healthcare plans.
She used some of her strongest language yet in trying to halt Mr Sanders' growing challenge to her status as favourite to win the nomination.
Mrs Clinton has a substantial lead in national polls but has seen Mr Sanders make gains in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
They took to the stage along with Martin O'Malley, the former governor of Maryland, aware that their performance - the final Democratic debate before the Iowa caucuses in two weeks - could have a crucial impact on who wins the state. The result was a string of verbal attacks in the most vigorous televised debate so far.
Mrs Clinton repeatedly cast herself as the candidate who would build on President Barack Obama's record while Mr Sanders constantly tried to highlight her ties to Wall Street.
She warned that Mr Sanders' healthcare plan would mean ripping up Mr Obama's Affordable Care Act and starting again.
"But the fact is we have the Affordable Care Act. ... We have already seen 19 million American get insurance," she said.
He responded by saying that millions of people still did not have health insurance.
"Nobody is tearing this up," he said. "We're moving forward."
Their sharpest exchange was over how to crack down on Wall Street.
Mrs Clinton said Mr Sanders had voted to deregulate the financial market in 2000, one of the factors leading to the collapse of 2008 that pitched the US economy into a deep recession.
The Vermont senator, who describes himself as a democratic socialist, said Mrs Clinton had accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees Wall Street backers.
"Can you really reform Wall Street when they are spending millions and millions of dollars on campaign contributions and when they are providing speaking fees to individuals? So it's easy to say, 'I'm going to do this, I'm going to do that,' but I have huge doubts when people receive money from Wall Street," he said.
Once again, Mrs Clinton aligned herself with Mr Obama.
"He's criticised President Obama for taking donations from Wall Street. And President Obama has led our country out of the great recession. Senator Sanders called him weak, disappointing, he even in 2011 publicly sought someone to run in a primary against President Obama," she said.
Mr Sanders surge - taking a lead in New Hampshire and pushing her close in Iowa - has sparked fear in the Clinton campaign that she could suffer the same fate as 2008, when she was a strong front-runner but never recovered after Mr Obama won the Iowa caucus.
Mrs Clinton also aligned herself with another president. She said she would use her husband as a travelling emissary to help find the best ideas for creating jobs and reforming the economy.