Boy, that escalated quickly. Speaking at a Pennsylvania rally on Wednesday night, Bernie Sanders suggested that Hillary Clinton is not “qualified” to be president, the sharpest attack the Vermont senator has unleashed on his Democratic rival this year, and one that came hours after she refused to say whether she thought he was prepared for the job.
“She has been saying lately that she thinks that I am quote unquote not qualified to be president,” the Vermont senator told a 10,000-strong crowd at Temple University in Philadelphia. “I don’t believe that she is qualified if she is, through her super PAC, taking tens of millions of dollars in special-interest funds.”
Sanders was just getting warmed up:
I don’t think you are qualified if you have voted for the disastrous war in Iraq. I don’t think you are qualified if you’ve supported virtually every disastrous trade agreement, which has cost us millions of decent paying jobs. I don’t think you are qualified if you supported the Panama free trade agreement, something I very strongly opposed and which, as all of you know, has allowed corporations and wealthy people all over the world to avoid paying their taxes to their countries.
Bernie’s broadside came in response to comments Hillary made earlier in the day during a MSNBC interview. While the former secretary of state never uttered the words “not qualified” (or “unqualified”) as Sanders suggested she did, Clinton did repeatedly go out of her way to avoid answering in the affirmative when asked point blank if she thought he was fit to be president. Instead, she pivoted to his recent interview with the New York Daily News, during which Sanders struggled to provide policy specifics on his signature issue. “I think of it this way: The core of his campaign has been ‘break up the banks,’ and it didn’t seem in reading his answers that he understood exactly how that would work under Dodd-Frank,” Clinton said. Pressed twice more about her opponent’s presidential qualifications, Hillary continued to dodge, saying she’d “leave it to voters to decide who of us can do the job the country needs.”
Team Clinton quickly brought things full circle on Wednesday night, with a spokesman accusing Sanders of reaching a “new low.”
The war of words is the latest sign that the Democratic race—while far more civil and issue-focused than what’s happening over in the Land of Trump—has taken a turn toward the combative. Clinton has a commanding lead in the delegate race, but her campaign appears to be rattled by Sanders’ recent string of state wins, including his blowout victory in Wisconsin this week. And with the New York primary looming on the horizon, expect things to get even more heated in the days to come.