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Clinton, Sanders go down to the wire in Michigan

·Reporter
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DETROIT—Appearing for the first time in two years on a Fox News broadcast, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton joined challenger Bernie Sanders Monday evening in a town hall forum at Detroit’s Gem Theatre. The hour-long event, in which the candidates took the stage one at a time to answer questions from audience members and moderator Bret Baier, followed Sunday’s occasionally heated CNN debate, and came on the eve of Michigan’s crucial primary.

A recent CBS News poll shows Clinton leading there with 55 percent of prospective Democratic voters.

Sanders, who was slated to go straight from the forum to rally with supporters in Ann Arbor, kicked things off. He was first asked by Baier to explain a comment he’d made during the previous night’s debate that “when you are white, you don’t know what it’s like to be poor.”

Hillary Clinton and Fox News anchor Bret Baier in Detroit
Hillary Clinton and Fox News anchor Bret Baier in Detroit

Hillary Clinton talks with Fox News anchor Bret Baier during a town hall event in Detroit on Monday. (Photo: Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

The Vermont senator, who represents one of the whitest states in the country, took the opportunity to clarify his statement in a way that might appeal to the black voters he’s struggled to win over.

“There is no candidate in this race who has talked more about poverty than I have,” Sanders said. “What I meant by that is that in African-American communities, you have people living in desperation, often being abused by white police officers.”

That’s why he wants to fix the “broken criminal justice system,” Sanders said, adding, “But I know about white poverty.”

Reiterating many of the points he’s made during the last week of campaigning in Michigan, Sanders emphasized differences between his voting record and Clinton’s on key issues like the Iraq war and “terrible trade programs” that, he believes, are to blame for the economic collapse of industrial cities like Detroit and Flint.

Baier also pointed to disparities in how the two candidates are perceived by the public. For example, he noted, exit polls from many of the early primary states show a “massive gulf” between the percentage of voters who think Sanders is “honest and trustworthy” and the much smaller number of those who would say that about Clinton.

Bernie Sanders speaking in Detroit
Bernie Sanders speaking in Detroit

Bernie Sanders answers a question during a town hall event in Detroit on Monday. (Photo: Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

Baier further pressed the issue of trust when Clinton took the stage, hitting the former secretary of state with questions about the investigation into her private email server.

“I have said it wasn’t the best choice to use a personal email,” Clinton said, adding that she’s “not alone” in the practice; others, including former Secretary of State Colin Powell, “have done the same.”

Further defending herself, Clinton repeated that, “nothing I sent or received was marked classified.”

While much of the candidates’ time was spent discussing differences in how they would approach issues such as student debt and health care, the forum also touched on areas where they agree, notably including abortion rights.

Baeir asked both candidates whether they believe there should be time restrictions on when a woman can legally have an abortion. Clinton stated that “under Roe v. Wade, which is rooted in the Constitution, women have the right to make this highly personal decision with their family in accordance with their doctor.” But, she argued, “it’s not really a right” if it’s filled with constraints.

Sanders agreed, though his response was a bit more direct.

“I happen to believe that it is wrong for the government to be telling a woman what to do with her own body,” he said, eliciting applause from the audience. “I am very strongly pro-choice. That is a decision to be made by the woman, her physician and her family.”

Sanders was similarly straightforward when discussing his belief in the health care as a universal human right. Asked where his understanding of that right came from, Sanders simply stated, “Being a human being.”

The final question of the evening was delivered by a 13-year-old named Samuel who asked Clinton whether she considers Sanders an enemy or an ally.

“An ally for sure,” Clinton replied, taking the opportunity to double down on a dig she made in Flint Sunday night about the bickering at recent Republican presidential debates.

“We air our differences about issues,” Clinton said of the way she and Sanders compete. “Compare that to the Republicans and how they debate.”

Ultimately, Clinton said, if nominated, she hopes to work with Sanders because “if any of the remaining candidates on the Republican side is nominated, I think my supporters and Senator Sanders’ supporters are going to find a lot of common cause to prevent that person from ever becoming president of the United States.”

Asked whether that means she’d consider her current opponent as a potential running mate, Clinton chuckled and said, “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”

“I don’t want to think any further ahead than tomorrow and the Michigan primary.”

(Cover tile photos: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

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