Bernie Sanders is heating up his fight against rival Hillary Clinton ahead of the New York primary on April 19. As both candidate vie for a win in their home state, Sanders is taking aim at Clinton, criticizing her judgment and experience. "In many respects, she may have the experience to be president of the United States," Sanders said Sunday during an interview on NBC's Meet the Press. "No one can argue that. But in terms of her judgment, something is clearly lacking." Sanders echoed the sentiment during a segment that aired Sunday on CNN's State of the Union (although the interview was actually recorded earlier in the week). "I have my doubts about what kind of president she would make," Sanders told host Jake Tapper.
In comparison to the recent Republican brawl that's run the gambit of targets from wives to hand size, the fight between the Democrats is merely an ideological squabble between two friends. However, Sanders promised early on not to fight dirty and to elevate the political rhetoric, so comments like these are sticky and hard to navigate. Expressing doubt about Clinton is a necessary tactic for persuading voters, but it can only make him seem like the bad guy.
To Clinton's credit, she seems to have flipped the game on Sanders. Tapper also interviewed Clinton for a segment on the same show, and Clinton declined to comment similarly on Sanders, though it's unclear if Clinton saw Sanders' interview. "I don't have anything negative to say about him," said Clinton, taking a page out of Sanders' book. But it's easy to take the high road when you're the frontrunner, and Sanders doesn't have that luxury right now.
That's not to say that Sanders is about to break out devastating opposition research and publicize any potential secrets about Clinton's personal life. However, Sanders' recent winning streak in the primaries is opening up the possibility of him taking back the delegate lead, and that means running a more pointed campaign, featuring comments like these. Sanders has control over what and how the message is communicated, and it's important to remember the difference between a clean campaign that expresses legitimate criticism and an unfair attack on an opponent.
Clinton and Sanders will debate for the first time since early March on Thursday in Brooklyn, and the rhetoric used there could be influential in deciding a winner for the New York primary. Sanders is currently falling behind in the polls, so he needs to figure out the perfect way to communicate his message to voters without getting his own criticism if he wants to pull of the win.