Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders yesterday said he does not believe Hillary Clinton is qualified to be president based on her acceptance of special-interest money, her support of free trade and her vote for the Iraq War.
Sanders' blunt assessment at a raucous rally in Philadelphia came at the end of a day of testy exchanges between the two White House contenders in a race that Sanders has prolonged by continuing to win nominating contests, despite Clinton's formidable lead in the delegate count.
Earlier yesterday, Clinton launched a fierce two-pronged attack on Sanders, questioning her persistent challenger's qualifications as a Democrat and for the presidency - but stopped short of calling him unqualified for the job.
Appearing at a rally at Temple University, Sanders told supporters that "Secretary Clinton appears to be getting a little bit nervous". "She has been saying lately that she thinks I am quote-unquote not qualified to be president," Sanders said.
"Let me just say in response to Secretary Clinton, I don't believe that she is qualified if she is through her super PAC taking tens of millions of dollars in special-interest money. I don't think you are qualified if you get US$15 million ($21.9 million) through Wall Street for your super PAC.
"I don't think you are qualified if you have voted for the disastrous war in Iraq," he continued, referring to Clinton's 2002 vote as a US senator from New York.
He also criticised Clinton's past support of trade deals, suggesting that also undermines her ability to be president.
Responding yesterday on Twitter, Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon said Sanders had reached "a new low". Counting down to what has become a make-or-break Democratic primary in New York on April 20, the two campaigns traded other zingers yesterday via speeches, interviews and social media.
"If you want to vote for me, I think you should know what I want to do, not just a lot of arm-waving and hot rhetoric," Clinton said during a visit to a job-training programme in Philadelphia.
The former Secretary of State spoke with new urgency, reflecting the shrinking window for underdog Sanders to overtake her in the nominating contest and a growing grudge match over which candidate can rightfully claim leadership of a restless Democratic electorate.
Sanders also threw some elbows when he was asked during a CBS News interview whether he should apologise to victims of the Sandy Hook school massacre for voting for legislation that provided immunity to gun manufacturers - a position Clinton has continued to criticise.
"Maybe Secretary Clinton might want to apologise to the families who lost their loved ones in Iraq, or to the massive levels of destabilisation we're now seeing in that region," said Sanders.
Earlier in the day, Clinton did not try to disguise her frustration with Sanders, which bordered on scorn.
"Like a lot of people, I am concerned that some of his ideas just won't work, because the numbers don't add up," she told a union audience.
"Others won't even pass Congress, or they rely on Republican governors suddenly having a conversion experience and becoming progressives," she asserted to laughter. "In a number of important areas, he doesn't have a plan at all."
Although Pennsylvania offers a rich trove of delegates on April 27, it is the rough-and-tumble New York contest that both campaigns have cast as an essential test.
Clinton has so far won 1743 delegates to Sanders' 1056, while 2383 are needed to get the party nomination.
Trump attacks Cruz over NY values
Donald Trump charged forward yesterday after an embarrassing loss in the Wisconsin primary with a raucous homecoming in New York, where he tore into his chief Republican presidential rival, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, over critical comments he previously made about "New York values".
"Do you remember during the debate when he started lecturing me on 'New York values', like we're no good?" Trump said during a rally in Bethpage, New York.
"I started talking to him about the World Trade Centre, the bravery, the incredible bravery of everybody," he added. "We all know people that died. And I've got this guy standing over there looking at me talking about New York values with scorn, distaste, with hatred, with hatred. So folks, I think you can forget about him."
Trump and his campaign have been under intense scrutiny since their loss to Cruz in Wisconsin on Wednesday, which many believe could represent a break in the momentum that has propelled the billionaire to victory after victory this primary season. With Cruz rising in national polls, anti-Trump conservatives are hopeful that Trump's collection of delegates will slow, making a contested convention in July likelier.
In that scenario, establishment Republicans uneasy about Trump's candidacy would seek to install a consensus candidate in his place.
Trump is expected to win in New York's primary on April 20, where he is leading polls by a double-digit margin. The campaign sees that primary, in addition to a series of Eastern contests this month, as a likely firewall after a poor showing in Wisconsin.
"It's great to be home," Trump said. "I love these people! These are my people!"
Trump also pitched the election forward by attacking Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, a former New York senator.
"I will beat Hillary so badly in the general election. You heard the other day members of her team were caught saying the one person she doesn't want to run against is Trump," he told the crowd. "Believe me, it will be fun. It will be fun."
- Washington Post, Bloomberg