Vermont Senator and Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders called for a “political revolution” while Hillary Clinton emphasized pragmatism and experience in the final town hall before the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1, the first contest in the road to the White House.
Polls show the two leading candidates for the Democratic Party’s nomination are locked in a statistical dead heat in Iowa.
Clinton and Sanders did not debate nor clash during Monday’s town hall, where questions were asked by voters, but rather emphasized their policy differences. Sanders noted the consistency of his progressive record, from opposing the Keystone Pipeline to the Iraq War and supporting stricter regulation of Wall Street.
Clinton said that her vote for the war in Iraq was a mistake, but when asked by a Muslim woman how she would work to ensure equal rights for religious minorities, she attacked racist Republican frontrunner Donald Trump rather than answer the question directly.
Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, polling a distant third place, was the candidate asked the most directly about race. He defended his record, saying he had reduced the prison population as governor—in keeping with a national trend—and that his policies as mayor of Baltimore had saved lives.
Clinton lost Iowa in 2008 to future President Barack Obama. Though she leads in national polls, she risks losing the state again, with Sanders having made large gains in recent weeks.
Sanders’ approach at the town hall was more personal than Clinton’s, touching on his immigrant father, boasting about his basketball skills in elementary school and hugging a woman who spoke about struggling on her minimal salary. Clinton, by contrast, called his words “poetry,” emphasizing her legislative and administrative experience as both a senator and secretary of state. She also cited her experience pushing for health care reform in the 1990s as first lady.
Sanders, for his part, indirectly attacked Clinton’s experience as a liability. “We are touching a nerve with the American people,” he said, “who understand that establishment politics is just not good enough.”