Bernie Sanders began tonight’s Democratic debate by spewing hot fire at Clinton. Asked about his recent remark that Hillary was “unqualified” to be president, Sanders first played the victim—her surrogates started it!—then argued that Clinton’s judgment, well, made her unqualified. She has a super PAC. She supported the war in Iraq. These have been familiar criticisms, but Sanders has been much fiercer with them tonight.
Tonight’s Democratic debate has been, for lack of a better word, lit. Sanders is going after Clinton and Clinton’s bringing it right back—her “I’m listening but you’re wrong as hell” face is in full effect tonight. But her main strategy, at least in the early part of this debate, was to use President Obama as a human shield. Obama had a super PAC too, Clinton argued, and that super PAC spent millions on his behalf. Obama made me secretary of state, Clinton argued, does that mean you think he has bad judgment, too?
This has, in many ways, been a continuation of Clinton’s larger primary strategy, which has been to argue that she will continue Obama’s legacy. She has also, sometimes not so subtly, argued that Sanders is opposed to that legacy. But tonight, more than any other night, Clinton is using Obama to deflect Sanders’s attacks.