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Hillary Chickens on Debate with Sanders in New York, but Still Maintains She Can Beat Trump

Updated on March 28, 2016

At odds with the carefully-crafted image of the strongest candidate who can beat Donald Trump in the general election, Hillary Clinton has declined to debate Bernie Sanders in her own back yard until he starts being nicer. Joel Benenson, Clinton's chief strategist, said on CNN:

"This is a man who said he'd never run a negative ad ever. He's now running them. They're planning to run more...Let's see the tone of the campaign he wants to run before we get to any other questions."

Trump has set no such limitations on the kinds of ads he would run against Clinton in a general election, or if he will ask Clinton's approval in order to secure debates. The progressive magazine Mother Jones observes that the Democratic contest has already been far more polite than the brutal, rough and tumble Republican one, where the latest salvos have involved attacks on candidates' wives. Mother Jones writes:

"The problem with [Clinton spokesperson Joel] Benenson's argument is that the 2016 Democratic primary has been one of the most remarkably friendly contests in recent memory. While Republican Party leaders mount a #NeverTrump campaign as the front-runner mocks the appearance of his opponent's spouse, the Democratic candidates have largely focused on minor policy differences, with Sanders waving away efforts to get him to attack Clinton for using a private email server."

The announcement comes as Sanders wins five of the last six primary states, including delegate-rich Washington, with results in the sixth state, Arizona, still being hotly contested by mostly Sanders supporters. Sanders won by 70% - 80% and more in Washington, Utah, Idaho, Alaska and Hawaii. Sanders has declared that his early momentum has been restored, after his early wins and strong showings in states like New Hampshire and Iowa, and that he is “that candidate” who can beat Trump. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times last week Sanders said:

" know, people want to vote for Hillary Clinton, that's fine. But it is not fine when people say Hillary Clinton is the one who is going to beat Donald Trump. I would urge you, go to your website, look up virtually all of the current polls...Clinton beats Trump, 53-41, 12 points. I beat him 58-38, 20 points. John Kasich beats Hillary Clinton, 51-45. She loses by 6; I beat him by 6. Ted Cruz is tied 48-48 with Clinton. I beat him by 13 points. And that is absolutely consistent with virtually every poll that's out there...if Democrats want to defeat a Republican candidate, Trump or anybody else, I think the evidence is overwhelming: I am that candidate."

Clinton's refusal to debate Sanders in New York comes weeks after Trump ducked a one-on-one debate with Sanders, that Sanders had agreed to, which Fox News executives had tried to arrange. The New York Times reported:

"The Trump campaign was initially very interested, according to Fox officials, and the Sanders campaign was on board. But before the debate could be announced, the Trump campaign pulled out, citing scheduling conflicts,"

Multiple polls show that Sanders beats Trump solidly in head-to-head matches, while Clinton so far beats Trump by about half the margins, or is losing ground to Trump in national polls. In one recent national poll, Trump has closed the polling gap with Hillary over time, and ties or surpasses her at some points. In an unusual development, one poll taken by New York Newsday shows Trump closing in on Clinton in traditionally Democratic parts of New York state, a worrisome development for Democratic election watchers, who know that Democrats usually rely on New York's huge bank of electoral votes to win general elections. The loss of New York state to the Republican would be disastrous for any Democratic presidential candidate.

Sanders on the other hand beats Trump soundly in New York.

Meanwhile, voters in Arizona are demanding a “re-vote” after a primary that was marred with enormous problems. Thousands of voters waited in lines for hours in some precincts, and allegedly were turned away and did not get to vote. Arizona voters vowed that they were not satisfied with apologies from officials or even investigations, and say they want their votes to be counted.


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