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Clinton, Sanders To Face Off In Democratic Debate In New Hampshire


The race for the Democratic presidential nomination arrived in New Hampshire as a war of words and in particular one word, progressive. In a CNN town hall meeting, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders each claimed to be the true progressive in the race. That word carries weight in these days ahead of the primary in New Hampshire as both candidates try to appeal to the Democratic Party's base. Here to parse all of this is NPR political editor Domenico Montanaro.

Good morning.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee. Let's first hear how they describe themselves and each other when they talk about being progressive.


BERNIE SANDERS: What this campaign is about - it is creating a political revolution which represent all of us, not just wealthy campaign contributors. That's how we make change.

HILLARY CLINTON: I'm a progressive who likes to get things done. Clearly, we all share a lot of the same aspirations for our country that we want to see achieved.

MONTANARO: So Sanders, you know, says that he's been consistently and boldly progressive. Clinton, on the other hand, says they share the same values but doesn't want to overpromise and accused Sanders last night, even, of not being able to pass some of his sweeping changes. Sanders acknowledges, by the way, that (laughter) in the current system, it's pretty tough to pass a lot of what he wants to get done and calls for political revolution.

MONTAGNE: OK, so that's how they describe themselves. But Sanders is close to home turf in New Hampshire, and of course, Hillary Clinton goes into next week's vote as the official winner in Iowa. Did either candidate gain an edge in this town hall meeting?

MONTANARO: Well, that's tough to say. It's not like you have a lot of data coming out of, you know, a small audience like that. But Sanders, we know, does have a pretty good lead in the state, has expanded that lead over the past couple of weeks. And this last night was really an opportunity for them to each start to shape their closing messages, and you started to hear that, especially to New Hampshire voters. You know, it was more of a conversation with the audience. Though it - you know, there were some moments (laughter) that were kind of tough for both candidate. Hillary Clinton, in particular, struggled on her Iraq vote, needing to explain that again.

And when she was asked about these big fees that she took from Wall Street banks for speeches and she said it's because they offered them and said that she still wasn't really sure she'd be running for president back then.

Sanders, on the other hand, was asked about whether he could win in November and beyond New Hampshire where, you know, non-white voters are going to be so much more important. And he had to explain that to people why they'd pay higher taxes, though he said they'd be for things like lower health care premiums.

MONTAGNE: You know, you said more of this was a conversation than a debate. What about lighter moments?

MONTANARO: Well, there certainly were. And Sanders had some fun with comedians who've been having some fun with him on late night shows.


ANDERSON COOPER: Are you doing your Larry David right now?

CLINTON: This is the scoop.

I am Larry David.


MONTANARO: So of course, he's referring there to Larry David, his comedic doppelganger (laughter) whose impression of him on "SNL" - "Saturday Night Live" went viral.

Clinton struck the kind of tone her campaign's been hoping for with her answer to a rabbi on how her faith informs what she does.


CLINTON: Be grateful for your limitations. Know that you have to reach out to have more people be with you to support you, to advise you. Listen to your critics. But at the end, be grateful.

MONTANARO: And you know, Sanders also said he's very spiritual and religious, something kind of rare to hear him talk about. And so a little bit of a softer side from both candidates last night as they put the gloves back on in tonight's debate.

MONTAGNE: All right. Thanks very much.

MONTANARO: OK. Thank you.

MONTAGNE: NPR political editor Domenico Montanaro. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.