Clinton questions Sanders' party ties

2016-02-19 16:12
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton meets with supporters in Durham. (Matt Rourke, AP)

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton meets with supporters in Durham. (Matt Rourke, AP)

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Las Vegas - Fighting for a victory just days before Nevada's caucuses, Hillary Clinton took one of her toughest shots at rival Bernie Sanders, questioning the long-time independent's devotion to the Democratic Party he's running to lead.

Clinton accused Sanders of attacking the two most recent Democratic presidents - President Barack Obama and her husband, former President Bill Clinton - both of whom remain popular political figures among Democratic voters.

"I just don't know where all this comes from," she said at a televised forum hosted by MSNBC on Thursday night. "Maybe it's that Senator Sanders wasn't really a Democrat until he decided to run for office."

Clinton is hoping to use a win in Nevada on Saturday as a springboard into the primary race in South Carolina on February 27 and a slate of Southern primaries on Super Tuesday on March 1, where she's favoured because of her strength among African-Americans.

Minority voters play a far bigger role than in the recent contests in Iowa and New Hampshire. That will be a test for the Republicans as well going into Saturday's primary in South Carolina, where brash billionaire Donald Trump remains the front-runner.

Sanders has kept the Democratic race closer than expected, and a win in Nevada after his strong win in New Hampshire would indicate that the contest is far from over.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday afternoon, Sanders described some of President Bill Clinton's biggest achievements, the North America Free Trade Agreement and welfare overhaul, as "disastrous". He later said his critique was prompted by a question from a reporter and that a member of Congress can disagree with a president from his own party.

Both candidates vowed to make reforming the country's immigration system a top priority of their administrations, should either win the White House. Clinton said she'd take up the issue in the first 100 days of her presidency.

Clinton was pressed on why she has refused to release transcripts of the paid speeches she delivered to some of the country's largest financial institutions. Clinton said she's happy to make those available, as long as other candidates do the same.

Some of Clinton's top Latino backers raised questions about Sanders' advocacy for immigrants, saying the Vermont senator repeatedly voted against immigration legislation.

About one-quarter of Nevada's population is Hispanic.

Clinton's campaign has long argued that Sanders appeal is limited to white liberals, a relatively limited portion of the Democratic party. A victory on Saturday would show that the breath of his support is more like the coalition that twice boosted Obama to the White House.

Trump faces a similar situation in the Republican race. A win in South Carolina after his New Hampshire victory would give him staying power and worry some in the party establishment who think a more mainstream candidate is needed to win the White House.

Trump on Thursday softened his rhetoric on Pope Francis after blasting the Catholic leader earlier in the day for suggesting that Trump's plan to build a wall along the US-Mexico border made him "not Christian".

Trump said during a town hall event on CNN that he believed the pope's remarks were "probably a little bit nicer" than first reported.

Read more on:    bernie sanders  |  hillary clinton  |  us  |  us 2016 elections

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