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After gains by Clinton, Sanders turns more aggressive

After a strong campaign stretch for Hillary Clinton, rival Bernie Sanders has launched a new tactic: going after her.
After a strong campaign stretch for Hillary Clinton, rival Bernie Sanders has launched a new tactic: going after her.Scott Olson/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — After a strong campaign stretch for Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton, rival Bernie Sanders has launched a new tactic: going after her.

October has been very good to Clinton, who dominated the first Democratic debate and emerged unscathed from a pressure-laden congressional hearing on the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya. She has built a formidable organization, notably in Iowa, where the first votes of the election cycle will be cast in the state’s Feb. 1 caucuses.

Aware of the new landscape, the Vermont senator is drawing new and more aggressive contrasts with Clinton.

In an e-mail blast sent to supporters Friday, a day after the hearing on Benghazi, Sanders presented a timetable of his decades-old stances on issues such as gay rights, trade, and Wall Street regulation. The e-mail makes clear that, in every area, his record is in line with most grass-roots Democratic voters — and that he has held his positions for far longer than Clinton has.

At a high-profile dinner in Iowa on Saturday, Sanders continued his effort to draw distinctions, noting his early opposition to the Keystone XL oil pipeline, a stance Clinton only recently adopted. Sanders told the 6,000 die-hard Democrats in attendance that he considered the issue a ‘‘no-brainer.’’

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Sanders also took his new act to the airwaves Sunday. ‘‘We have differences of opinion, and I think the American people, people participating in the Democratic primary process, need to know the differences,’’ he said during an appearance on CNN’s ‘‘State of the Union.’’

Expect more of that. With Vice President Joe Biden’s decision not to run for president and the departure of two other candidates over the past week, the race for the Democratic nomination has shaped into essentially a two-way match-up between Clinton and Sanders.

His challenge is to prevent it from being a lopsided race.

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In Iowa, the self-described democratic socialist took aim at the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the trade pact among Pacific nations that Clinton once called ‘‘the gold standard’’ of agreements but now opposes. ‘‘It is not now, nor has it ever been, the gold standard of trade agreements,’’ Sanders said. ‘‘I did not support it yesterday. I do not support it today. And I will not support it tomorrow.’’

Sanders did not mention Clinton by name in his remarks at Saturday night’s Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Des Moines or in the blast e-mail. But he and his advisers freely acknowledge that the campaign is looking for ways to draw contrasts with the former secretary of state. And the exercise could accelerate after Sanders starts airing his first TV ads next month.