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Dems Clash in NH Debate                02/05 05:39

   It was the sharpest, most caustic debate yet for Hillary Clinton and Bernie 
Sanders.

   DURHAM, N.H. (AP) -- It was the sharpest, most caustic debate yet for 
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

   A fiery Clinton went after Sanders for his suggestions that she is a captive 
of Wall Street interests, calling on him to end a "very artful smear that you 
and your campaign are carrying out."

   Sanders didn't back down. He kept coming back to the millions that Clinton 
has collected from financial interests in speaking fees and campaign 
contributions over the decades.

   "I am very proud to be the only candidate up here who does not have a super 
PAC, who's not raising huge sums from Wall Street and special interests," he 
said.

   Five days before New Hampshire votes in the nation's first primary, Clinton 
and Sanders head back to the campaign trail Friday. Thursday night's 
intensifying jabs and pokes gave voters something to talk about. And they were 
fresh evidence of how the race for the nomination, once considered a sure bet 
for Clinton, has tightened in recent weeks.

   Another sign of the new dynamic: Clinton reported that her campaign had 
raised $15 million in January --- $5 million less than Sanders and the first 
time she's been outraised by her opponent. Her finance director called the 
numbers "a very loud wake-up call."

   Sanders held the former secretary of state to a whisper-thin margin of 
victory in Iowa's leadoff caucuses, and polls show he has a big lead in New 
Hampshire. Clinton, who beat Barack Obama in New Hampshire eight years ago, is 
determined to at least narrow the gap before Tuesday's vote. Her prospects are 
much stronger in primaries and caucuses after New Hampshire, as the race moves 
on to states with more diverse electorates that are to her advantage.

   The increasingly contentious Democratic race was the latest twist in an 
election campaign that, until recently, had been dominated by the crowded and 
cacophonous field of Republicans, spread all across New Hampshire.

   Donald Trump, who finished second among Republicans in Iowa, stepped up the 
pace of his campaign and acknowledged Thursday he should have had a stronger 
ground operation in Iowa.

   Jeb Bush, his campaign lagging, brought in Mom --- former first lady Barbara 
Bush --- who praised him as "decent and honest and everything we need in a 
president."

   In their debate, Clinton and Sanders 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, fighting 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, 
saying: "I really don't think these kinds of attacks by insinuation are worthy 
of you. And enough is enough."

   Sanders persisted with his suggestions that 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."

   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 spoke of Wall Street executives who destroyed the 
economy and walked away with no criminal record.

   "That is what power is about, that is what corruption is about," he said.

   Clinton, unwilling to cede the issue to Sanders, insisted that her 
regulatory policies would be tougher on Wall Street than his.

   "I've got their number on all that," she said of "the Wall Street guys."

   Asked if she would release transcripts of her paid speeches to Wall Street 
interests and others, Clinton was noncommittal --- "I'll look into it." She had 
struggled a day earlier to explain why she accepted $675,000 for three speeches 
from Goldman Sachs.

   Clinton called Sanders' sweeping proposals on health care and education 
"just not achievable," while Sanders countered that Clinton was willing to 
settle for less than Americans deserve.

   On foreign policy, Sanders renewed his criticism of Clinton for her vote as 
a senator to authorize the war in Iraq, a vote she later said was a mistake.

   Clinton retorted: "A vote in 2002 is not a plan to defeat ISIS. We have to 
look at the threats that we face right now."

   Sanders allowed that while Clinton had been secretary of state, "experience 
is not the only point. Judgment is."

   On a nagging issue, Clinton was asked if she was sure nothing problematic 
would come of the ongoing investigation into her use of a private email account 
and server to handle official messages when she was secretary of state, some of 
them later classified as top secret.

   "I am 100 percent confident," she said.

   When the fireworks had died out at the end of two hours, the two candidates 
had some conciliatory words for one another, with Sanders declaring, "On our 
worst days, I think it is fair to say, we are 100 times better than any 
Republican candidate."


(KA)


 
 
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