Washington, Feb 5: With the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination reduced to a direct contest between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, the two clashed over foreign policy to Wall Street, but most of all over who was a true progressive.
In the first one-on-one Democratic debate in Durham, New Hampshire Thursday ahead of next Tuesday's primary battle, an angry Clinton accused Sanders of delivering an "artful smear" by suggesting her political favour could be bought by rich donors.
"If you have something to say, say it," Clinton said reacting to Sanders' suggestion that the former secretary of state was a progressive on "some days" and that she could not be a moderate and a progressive at the same time.
Defending herself as a progressive who gets results and has spent decades working on children's rights and health care, she said: "I am not making promises that I can't keep."
Clinton said that by Sanders' definition of progressive politics, there would be nobody left in the movement, including President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
Sanders hit back by pointing out that Clinton had referred to herself as a moderate at an event in Ohio last year. And he said that Obama and Biden had done a "fantastic job" pulling America back from the Great Recession.
"Do I think President Obama is a progressive? Yes, I do," Sanders said, though he added that he disagreed with the President on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.
Sanders billed himself as the true outsider candidate in the race, while suggesting that Clinton was the candidate of the establishment.
He argued that she would never be able to get money out of politics because she has a multimillion-dollar super PAC.
Super PACs are supposedly independent political committees that support a candidate with unlimited, often anonymous, donations from companies, unions, or individuals.
On foreign policy, Clinton sought to deflect criticism over her 2002 vote to authorise the war in Iraq by saying, "A vote in 2002 is not a plan to defeat ISIS."
She argued that it is now more important to defeat the terror group that has taken over vast areas of Iraq and Syria than continue to argue about the roots of the Iraq War.
Sanders countered that the decision on whether to wage war on Iraq was a question of judgment and recalled that he cast an opposite vote to Clinton's while he was a member of the House.
On the controversy surrounding her use of a private email server for official work, Clinton said she was "100 percent confident" that it would not become a problem that derailed her campaign.
"I never sent or received any classified material. They are retroactively classifying it," she said referring to recent disclosures that some of the emails on her server would not be released because they contain information classified "top secret."
"I think the American people will know that it's an absurdity. I have absolutely no concerns about it whatsoever."
Sanders said that he had declined chances to attack Clinton on the issue as "There's a process underway. I will not politicize it."
According to the latest polls Sanders has a two to one lead (61 percent-to-30 percent) over Clinton in New Hampshire, but she leads him 51.8 percent to 36.3 percent nationally