With polls showing a tight race and one of his toughest contests ahead of him, Bernie Sanders is going on the offensive against rival Hillary Clinton, accusing her of parroting his anti-establishment message even as she cashes in on Wall Street and other corporate ties.
In what is being described as "one of his most striking critiques" of Clinton yet, Sanders charged the former secretary of state of employing "hastily adopted campaign rhetoric" to capitalize on the grassroots momentum that his campaign has generated.
"I have to say that I am delighted that Secretary Clinton, month after month after month, seems to be adopting more and more of the positions that we have advocated. That’s good," Sanders said during a Monday press conference at the International Association of Ironworkers, Local 7, in Boston, Massachusetts, where the two are currently locked in a tie ahead of the state's March 1 primary.
He added that Clinton is "beginning to use a lot of the language and phraseology that we have used."
"In fact," Sanders continued, "I think I saw a TV ad and thought it was me. But it turned out it was Secretary Clinton’s picture in the end."
Sanders said that in the weeks ahead he will draw a sharp distinction between his record and that of his Democratic rival—who spent the day at a series of high-dollar fundraisers in California—including his rejection of Super PAC funding and his history of opposing trade deals, such as the TPP, which Clinton only recently came out against.
"The people of the United States need to know the difference between hastily adopted campaign rhetoric and the real record and long-held ideas of the candidates," he said. Later, speaking before an estimated crowd of 8,000 at the University of Massachusetts Amherst on Monday evening, Sanders highlighted a number of these differences. The Boston Globe reports:
While his campaign is funded by large numbers of small donors, he said, "Secretary Clinton has chosen to go in a different direction—she has a number of super PACs."
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When Sanders announced that Clinton received $15 million from Wall Street donors, the crowd erupted into more boos.
"We don’t represent the interests of the billionaire class. We don’t represent corporate interests or Wall Street," he said.
"We don’t want their money," Sanders shouted, provoking more cheers.
After telling rally-goers that his campaign had received contributions from 4 million individual donors, he asked: “Do you know what the average contribution is?”
The crowd shouted back: "27 DOLLARS," prompting a rare broad smile from Sanders and a familiar refrain from his stump speeches: "This is a campaign of the people, by the people, and for the people."
Some of the most tense moments in the Democratic primary thus far have come when Sanders has directly challenged his rival for her historic ties to monied interests, including the recent dispute over her paid Wall Street speeches, or her acceptance of lobbyist donations.
However, looking ahead to the South Carolina primary on Saturday and then Super Tuesday on March 1, Sanders has sharpened his critique.
National polls show the two are locked in a very tight race. The average spread on Real Clear Politics has Clinton up by just 5.6 points.
Meanwhile, voters have continuously expressed trust issues with the frontrunner. A Gallup survey released on Tuesday found that 21 percent of Americans described Clinton as "dishonest," a "liar," or having a "poor character."