Bernie Sanders puts Hillary Clinton on defensive in Democratic debate

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: Jan 19, 2016 00:38 IST
Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders (left) and Hillary Clinton after a party debate in South Carolina on Sunday. (AFP)

Bernie Sanders pounced on the question as if he had been waiting for it all evening at the Democratic debate on Sunday. Let’s talk about polls, he agreed with the moderator.

Sanders pointed out that when he started his campaign, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton was polling at 50% while he was at 3%. Look at the difference now, he urged moderators as well as the audience.

While Sanders trails Clinton (38.3% to 51%) in the national polls, he has come quite close in early primary state Iowa (42% to 46%) and is leading in New Hampshire (48% to 42%).

A combative Clinton repeatedly attacked Sanders on Sunday night over gun control, health care and his attempts to put daylight between himself and Obama, among other issues.

Clinton kept Sanders on the defensive, but media commentators and poll pundits agreed that she had lost the debate to the Vermont senator who is running an insurgent campaign.

Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis tweeted that 27 of the 30 undecided voters in a South Carolina focus group he conducted to track the debate rated Sanders as the winner. Republican pollster Frank Luntz also gave the debate to Sanders, but not by very much — he called it a “narrow” victory that won’t help him secure the party’s nomination.

Sanders’s strong anti-Wall Street, anti-big money campaign has resonated with young Democrats, but experts don’t see a path for him to the party nomination. But it was all about Sanders on Sunday night, not unlike how the Republican debates have played out on the other side. Most of them have been about front-runner Donald Trump.

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