15 Apr 2016

US election: Democrats get fired up at NY debate

7:03 pm on 15 April 2016

United States democratic presidential contenders Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have again criticised each other as the critical New York primary nears.

United States democratic presidential contenders Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders

Mrs Clinton and Mr Sanders attacked each others' commitment to their ideals in New York. Photo: AFP

The debate was held today (NZ time), ahead of the state primary on Wednesday.

Mr Sanders had won seven of the past eight contests, but Mrs Clinton held a clear lead in race for the nomination.

She had 1758 delegates pledged to her name, compared to Mr Sanders' 1069. Both were aiming for the magic number of 2383.

While far short of the brawls that have characterized Republican debates, the tone reflected a contentious turn in the Democratic contest.

Mrs Clinton and Mr Sanders out-shouted each other while a split crowd roared its approval.

"If you're both screaming at each other, the viewers won't be able to hear either of you," CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer warned during the debate, at the historic Navy Yard in the New York borough of Brooklyn.

Mr Sanders cited Mrs Clinton's support for the Iraq War and for free trade agreements.

United States democratic presidential contenders Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders

Mr Sanders was critical of Mrs Clinton's previous decisions. Photo: AFP

"Does Secretary Clinton have the experience and intelligence to be president? Of course she does," Mr Sanders said at the debate.

"But I do question her judgement."

The former secretary of state knocked Mr Sanders off balance on gun control, quipping when he let out a chuckle during her response that 30,000 people dying a year is "not a laughing matter".

Meanwhile, the Vermont senator once again attacked Mrs Clinton for her support of the 2003 Iraq War - tying it to the same kind of "mentality" that led to an ill-fated US intervention in Libya.

Mr Sanders also repeatedly criticised Mrs Clinton for her financial ties to Wall Street, particularly her paid speeches to an investment bank.

She accused him of being unprepared to implement even his key policies, such as breaking up the big Wall Street banks.

"It's easy to diagnose the problem. It's another thing to do something about it," Mrs Clinton said.

United States democratic presidential contenders Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders

Mrs Clinton questioned whether her opponent would be able to implement the key policies of his campaign. Photo: AFP

Mr Sanders promised to release his past tax returns on Friday. but Mrs Clinton said she would not release transcripts of her paid speeches.

Mr Sanders' campaign drew more than 25,000 people to a rally on Wednesday in Washington Square in Manhattan.

Many analysts believed Mr Sanders needed to pull off an upset in New York to remain viable in the race.

However, polls showed Mrs Clinton, who represented the state in US Senate for two terms, holding a commanding New York lead.

As the two-hour debate ended, social media analyst Brandwatch said Sanders had more than 173,000 mentions on Twitter, 55 percent of them positive, while Clinton had more than 191,000 mentions, 54 percent of them negative.

Clinton mentions were more negative than positive in two out of the three previous debates.

-BBC / Reuters

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