Clinton, Sanders fight to own ‘progressive’

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Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton press their points during a Democratic presidential primary debate, Nov. 14, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo: Charlie Neibergall/AP)

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders got into a back-and-forth on Twitter on Wednesday after the Vermont senator questioned Clinton’s progressivism and called her “dependent, through her super-PAC and in other ways, on Wall Street and drug company money.”

The dustup comes in the middle of an eventful week for the two contenders for the Democratic nomination. After Clinton won the Iowa caucuses Monday by only a slight margin (a result the Sanders campaign is reviewing for discrepancies), the candidates are set to face off in a town hall Wednesday and a debate Thursday, both in New Hampshire, ahead of that state’s primary on Tuesday, February 9.

At a campaign event in Keene on Tuesday, MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt asked Sanders, “Hillary Clinton has called herself a progressive with a plan. Do you think Hillary Clinton is a progressive?”

“Some days, yes,” he responded. “Except when she announces she is a proud moderate. And then, I guess, she is not a progressive. I think, frankly, it is very hard to be a real progressive and to take on the establishment in a way that I think has to be taken …”

Members of Clinton’s campaign quickly responded on Twitter, with her communications director comparing the statement to then Sen. Barack Obama’s “likeable enough” line during the 2008 Democratic primary race, which was widely criticized as patronizing.

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On Wednesday, Clinton’s campaign officially broached the topic, accusing Sanders of diminishing her “40-year record of progressive results,” and shared a graphic touting that record.

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Sanders’ campaign piled on, tweeting a quote from 2010 in which Clinton said she’s “guilty” of being “moderate and center.” He also shared video of his original encounter with the reporter and fired off a series of pointed tweets echoing his most frequent attacks on Clinton, such as her ties to Wall Street and her vote for the war in Iraq.

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Clinton responded with a tweetstorm of her own, addressing Sanders directly about the apparent lapses in progressivism in his own record and ending on a sardonic note: “Please feel free to keep tweeting.”

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The gruff Vermont senator has branded his campaign as the revolutionary grassroots alternative to Clinton’s slick establishment operation. After losing by two delegates to the former secretary of State in Iowa, Sanders has a healthy lead in the polls going into the New Hampshire primary.

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