Bernie Sanders (Almost) Goes Negative

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Bernie Sanders Campaigns Across Iowa Ahead Of Caucuses
A somewhat less upbeat Sanders greets voters on Sunday. Photo: Alex Wong/2016 Getty Images

Bernie Sanders supporters are pulling for a momentum-building victory in Iowa on Monday night, but the lead up to the Iowa caucus wasn’t all fun and singing with Vampire Weekend for the Vermont senator. Over the weekend, Sanders began running a new ad in Iowa that hints Clinton is too influenced by Wall Street. And after famously declaring, “The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails,” at October’s debate, he took a different stance when Jake Tapper raised the issue on CNN’s State of the Union. “I think this is a very serious issue,” Sanders said. “I think there is a legal process right now taking place.”

In some ways, Clinton and Sanders have switched tactics in the final days before voting in Iowa. As New York’s Ed Kilgore reported, a confident Clinton tried to fire up supporters by discussing a raft of progressive policy proposals on Sunday in Des Moines. Meanwhile, the final Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics poll showed Clinton three points ahead of Sanders in Iowa, and the Washington Post reports that a “visibly agitated” Sanders complained about Clinton hitting him on gun control and reproductive rights. “Those are inaccuracies, and we can do better than that,” he said. “Secretary Clinton and I have differences of opinion. Let’s debate those differences of opinion, but let’s not go around distorting a record that I am very proud of.”

Sanders may be more defensive these days, but he’s not exactly ripping Clinton, as The Wall Street Journal and other outlets have suggested. After calling Clinton’s email problem “serious,” he said in the same breath that he doesn’t want to “politicize the issue.” And when the topic came up on Meet the Press, he said he refused to attack Clinton and would let the American people make up their own minds about the scandal. While it’s clear that the Goldman ad is partly aimed at Clinton, her name is never actually mentioned.

As Politico notes, when Clinton and Obama battled in Iowa back in 2008 they were far nastier, with Obama complaining about her “slash-and-burn politics,” and Clinton decrying his use of “tactics right out of Karl Rove’s playbook.” And it’s hard to classify anything the Democrats are doing in this race as truly “negative” while Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are clawing at each other.