On Thursday, they will face each other in a debate on MSNBC, an event that was pulled together only recently after some negotiating and back and forth between the campaigns.
The biggest change in the dynamics of the race is that Martin O’Malley dropped out. But the tone is also changing.
Ever since they left Iowa, Clinton and Sanders have gotten more pointed, particularly on Twitter, over who can better carry out a set of progressive priorities. Clinton has called herself a “progressive who gets things done,” while Sanders posted a series of tweets suggesting she has shifted her positions on such things as the Keystone Pipeline and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as well as on the question of whether she is a centrist or a liberal.
“You can be a moderate. You can be a progressive. But you cannot be a moderate and a progressive,” Sanders tweeted on Wednesday.
9:10 p.m. ET: Sanders slams expectations. Bernie Sanders criticized the media for focusing so much on expectations in New Hampshire, where he leads some polls by a significant margin. “That is the media game. That is what the media talks about. Who cares?” he says. Clinton’s campaign has downplayed the state, in hopes of delivering a better-then-expected result. But Sanders, too, cautions that he expects the results to be “close.”
9:15 p.m. ET: How do you pay for it? In the last debate, Clinton pointedly said that she would not raise taxes on the middle class. Sanders has said there will be tax hikes. His proposal for a “medicare for all,” single-payer health care program would raise taxes on those in the “middle of the economy” by about $500 annually. But he tells a questioner that the switch to single payer will reduce medical costs by $5,000.
9:23 p.m. ET: On faith. Cooper asks Sanders about something the Vermont senator rarely talks about on the stump: His faith. “Everybody practices religion in a different way,” says Sanders, who is Jewish. “I would not be running for president of the United States if I did not have very strong religious and spiritual feelings.” He added that he rarely gets that personal, but he did say he worried about a society “where some people say, ‘I don’t care,'” when spirituality to him is a recognition that “we are in this together.”
9:31 p.m. ET: “My way or the highway.” Sanders, who has referred to his campaign as the makings of a political revolution, is asked how he would work with a Congress that may not have changed all that much if he is elected president in November. He denies that it is “my way or the highway,” and cites veterans legislation where he has compromised with Republicans. But he also says that change in society comes from the bottom, suggesting that his movement would mark a realignment.
9:38 p.m. ET: 2025. Cooper points out that Sanders would be 83 at the end of a second term as president. “Thank goodness,” Sanders says, before quipping, “let’s not get ageist here.”
9:44 p.m. ET: Progressive vs. moderate. Sanders again chides the media for trying to goad him into saying something bad about Clinton. “I have tried my best not to do that, and I have never run a negative ad in my life,” he says. But when asked whether Clinton is a real progressive, Sanders cites her work on behalf of children, and that “she did a good job as secretary of state.” “But there are other issues where I think she is just not progressive.”
“I don’t know any progressive who has a SuperPAC and takes $15 million from Wall Street,” he says. (The campaign also has run an ad that attacks Goldman Sachs and Wall Street and their contributions to Washington politicians, but does not mention Clinton by name).
9:57 p.m. ET: Larry David. Cooper asks Sanders a group of personal, trivial questions. What kind of car does he have? “One of the smallest Chevys they make.” What about that folk album he recorded in the late 80s? He calls it “the worst album ever recorded,” although it is selling better now because “people can’t believe how bad it is.” And on Larry David hosting “Saturday Night Live” this week. “Anderson, I know you have been in journalism a long time. I am Larry David!”
10:03 p.m. ET Hillary the progressive. Now on stage, Clinton takes issue with Sanders saying she’s not a progressive on a number of issues. “I was somewhat amused today that Senator Sanders has set him up to be the gatekeeper of what it is to be a progressive,” she says, adding that under his criteria, President Barack Obama, late Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) and others would not be a “progressive.”
10:10 p.m. ET Young women. Cooper notes the historic moment it would be if Clinton is elected, but also cites polling data from Iowa showing that young women backed Sanders by 70 points. “That’s amazing,” Clinton says. “I accept the fact that I have work to do to convey what I stand for, what I want to accomplish.” Although Sanders is drawing huge crowds of young people, she says, “They don’t need to be there for me. I will be there for them.”
10:18 p.m. ET Interventionism. Clinton is asked if she would commit to not expanding military involvement abroad. Her answer: No. “I will be a careful, deliberate decision maker when facing hard choices when I know what is at stake,” saying that even though military intervention should be a last option, it shouldn’t be taken off the table.
10:20 p.m. ET Iraq. Clinton is asked about her 2002 vote to authorize the use of military force in Iraq, which was a central argument that Obama made against her in 2008. “I did make a mistake, and I admitted I made a mistake,” Clinton says. She says that President George W. Bush appealed for her vote by saying that it would provide leverage in order to finish UN inspections in Iraq for weapons of mass destruction. “But the Bush administration didn’t give them the time” to complete the inspections, she says.
10:31 p.m. ET “Vast right wing conspiracy.” After Clinton talks about withstanding years of attacks from the right, Cooper asks her if she believes there is still a “vast, right wing conspiracy,” her famous term she used in 1998. “Yeah, don’t you?” Clinton responded. “It’s even better funded.” She seizes on the chance to talk about well-funded negative attacks on her, including from the Koch brothers. “It’s probably incorrect to call it conspiracy because it is out there in the open,” she says. After going through the history of negative attacks, she gets applause when she says, “I’m still standing, and I will be standing.”
10:39 p.m. ET Words of wisdom. A rabbi asks a question about how she balances ego and humility. “Practice the discipline of gratitude. That’s helped me enormously,” she says, quoting a Jesuit parable.
10:45 p.m. ET. Goldman Sachs. Cooper presses Clinton on why she had to be paid more than $600,000 for giving three speeches to Goldman Sachs, something that Sanders has brought up in debates. “I don’t know. That’s what they offered,” she says, a bit flippantly. Clinton says that she “wasn’t committed” to running for president when she was giving those speeches after she served as Secretary of State. “I made speeches to lots of groups. I told them what I thought.” She then denied that the money has influenced her.
10:55 p.m. ET. Off time. Asked what she would do if she could be anonymous for a day, Clinton says she already has done it. When she was in the White House while her husband was president, she would put on a baseball cap and sunglasses and go take a walk (along with some Secret Service agents). “I would end up on the Mall sometimes and a family would come up to me and say, ‘Would you mind taking a picture of us in front of the White House.'” She gets more serious when talking about her mother, Dorothy Rodham, who was with her during the 2008 campaign but passed away in 2011. Clinton says that the advice her mother would give would be the same as it was in her last campaign: “Everyone gets knocked down. What matters is if you get up.”
11 p.m. ET. The end. The questions in the town hall were good — surprisingly so. Clinton and Sanders have been asked just about everything under the sun, but those in the audience and Cooper managed to still elicit more personal details and anecdotes.