Wednesday 21 February 2018

Bernie Sanders' promises unrealistic, Hillary Clinton tells rival

A handshake ends the debate between Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton (AP)
A handshake ends the debate between Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton (AP)

US presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have battled for the crucial support of black and Hispanic voters in a Democratic debate in Milwaukee that marked a shift in the primary towards states with more minority voters.

After splitting the first two state-by-state primary contests with Mr Sanders, Mrs Clinton also deepened her assertion that her unexpectedly strong rival was energising voters with promises "that cannot be kept".

And she continued to closely align herself with President Barack Obama, who remains popular, particularly with black Democrats.

Seeking to boost his own support with minorities, Mr Sanders peppered his typically economic-focused rhetoric with calls to reform a "broken criminal justice system".

"At the end of my first term, we will not have more people in jail than any other country," he said.

In one of the moments of agreement between the candidates, Mrs Clinton concurred on a need to address a criminal justice system that incarcerates a disproportionate number of minorities, but said her proposals for fighting racial inequality were broader.

"We're going to emphasise education, jobs and housing," said Mrs Clinton, who was endorsed earlier in the day by the political action committee of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Both candidates vowed to pursue comprehensive immigration reform, using the emotional issue to draw a contrast with Republicans who oppose allowing many of the millions of people in the United States illegally to stay.

They disagreed with a new series of raids authorised by Mr Obama to arrest and deport some people from Central America who recently came to the country illegally.

"We should be deporting criminals, not hard-working immigrant families who do the very best they can," Mrs Clinton said.

Both candidates were largely restrained in their head-to-head contest at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, in contrast to their campaign's increasingly heated rhetoric on the campaign trail.

While Mrs Clinton played the aggressor in the previous Democratic debate, she is mindful of a need to not turn off Mr Sanders' voters, particularly the young people supporting him in overwhelming numbers.

She is hoping to offset Mr Sanders' backing from those young Americans by drawing support from the black and Hispanic voters who make up a big share of the electorate in Nevada, South Carolina and other states that come next on the primary calendar.

In the more crowded Republican field, South Carolina is next. Billionaire Donald Trump, fresh from a commanding win in New Hampshire, will be tested by the state's more conservative voters.

Former secretary of state Mrs Clinton sought to discredit some of the proposals that have drawn young people to Mr Sanders, including his call for free tuition at colleges and universities and a plan for a government-run, single-payer health care system.

Mrs Clinton said those proposals came with unrealistic price tags and accused Mr Sanders of trying to shade the truth about what she said would be a 40% increase in the size of the federal government in order to implement his policies.

Mr Sanders did not put a price on his policies, but neither did he shy away from the notion that he wants to expand the size of government.

"In my view, the government of a democratic society has a moral responsibility to play a vital role in making sure all our people have a decent standard of living," he said.

Mr Sanders has focused his campaign almost exclusively on a call to break up big Wall Street banks and overhaul the current campaign finance system that he says gives wealthy Americans undue influence.

His campaign contends that his message will be well-received by minority voters, arguing that blacks and Hispanics have been hurt even more by what he calls a "rigged" economy.

Mr Sanders' strength has startled the Clinton campaign. He defeated her by more than 20 points in Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, drawing the majority of men, women, independents and young people.

Meanwhile Mr Trump gave a taste of the attacks he plans to unleash against former president George Bush when he hits the campaign trail for his brother Jeb next week.

Mr Trump told a a rally in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, that he had read reports about the former president's plans to campaign with former Florida governor Jeb Bush.

He says Jeb Bush "tried the mother, that didn't work out so good. Now he's bringing in his brother".

Mr Trump repeated his own opposition to the war in Iraq and pointed to George Bush "getting us in that quicksand".

"That was a horrible call to go in," he said.

Mr Trump says he will leave Jeb Bush alone if his campaign stops airing negative ads against him.

Press Association

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