WASHINGTON • US Democratic presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton battled over their progressive credentials, with Mr Sanders reminding voters the two made different decisions on backing the Iraq war, taking money from Super PACs, and trade and energy policies.
Mr Sanders, speaking at a televised town hall meeting on Wednesday in Derry, New Hampshire, built on an earlier back- and-forth between the two candidates on Twitter and in appearances in the state, which hosts the next party nominating contest on Feb 9.
"Some of my best friends are moderates, but you can't be a progressive and a moderate at the same time," Mr Sanders said at the CNN-hosted session, citing his opposition to the Iraq war, refusal to take money from Super political action committees (PACs) and his agenda to phase out fossil fuels.
Former secretary of state Clinton, speaking immediately after Mr Sanders at the town hall, said: "I was somewhat amused today that Senator Sanders has set himself up to be the gatekeeper on who is a progressive, because under the definition that was flying around on Twitter and statements from his campaign, Barack Obama would not be a progressive, Joe Biden would not be a progressive... so I'm not going to let that bother me."
Her campaign issued a press statement listing her efforts in "fighting for progressive causes" including healthcare and education.
The two candidates arrived in New Hampshire on Tuesday after Mrs Clinton marked a narrow victory in the Iowa caucuses, the first nominating contest leading up to the Nov 8 presidential election.
Mr Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont who is running as a democratic socialist, is polling more than 15 points ahead of Mrs Clinton in New Hampshire, but is trailing her nationally by roughly the same number of points.
Mr Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont who is running as a democratic socialist, is polling more than 15 points ahead of Mrs Clinton in New Hampshire, but is trailing her nationally by roughly the same figure.
During the town hall meeting, he made an appeal to minority and religious voters - blocs he will need to draw to the polls if he hopes to maintain momentum against Mrs Clinton in upcoming nominating contests in the South. "There will be no president who will fight harder to end institutional racism than I will," he said.
Mrs Clinton, a former first lady and former senator, has sought to manage expectations about her performance in next week's New Hampshire primary, saying she is disadvantaged by Mr Sanders' being from a neighbouring state. But she shows huge polling leads in the next round of primary contests, in South Carolina and Nevada later this month.
In an interview with CNN, Mr Sanders accused Mrs Clinton of being a progressive only "on some days". Mrs Clinton called the comments "kind of a low blow".
The results from New Hampshire could shift momentum in the Democratic race for the nomination. Mrs Clinton, who had hoped for a strong finish against Mr Sanders in Iowa to vanquish his insurgent candidacy, hopes to overcome his polling lead in New Hampshire.