When asked on Monday whether Hillary Clinton would agree to debate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in New York, the Clinton campaign’s chief strategist would said the campaign would consider it if Sanders changes his “tone.”
Sanders, who is making a big push in New York ahead of the primary there, on Sunday asked for a debate with Clinton in the state she once represented as a senator.
When asked by CNN’s Kate Bolduan about a potential New York debate, Clinton chief strategist Joel Benenson instead pivoted to what he said were Sanders’ plans to hit Clinton with negative ads.
“I think what was notable this weekend wasn’t so much that, but in my mind was the Washington Post story with his own campaign talking about how they’re poll testing more negative attacks on Hillary Clinton. They’re talking about running harsher negatives now,” he said, referring to a Washington Post report saying Sanders’ campaign was looking into new ways to contrast the Vermont senator with Clinton.
“This is a man who said he’d never run a negative ad ever,” Benenson later added. “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.”
When pressed about why the Clinton campaign wouldn’t agree to another debate, Benenson said the campaign only “agreed to debates up to a certain point.”
“What’s the risk?” Bolduan asked.
“There’s no risk. She’s done well in the debates,” Benenson said in response. “But Sen. Sanders doesn’t get to decide when we debate, particularly when he’s running a very negative campaign against us. Let’s see if he goes back to the kind of tone he said he was going to set early on. If he does that, then we’ll talk about debates.”
When asked if he’d rule out the campaign’s participation in a New York debate, Benenson said that the campaign is “not going to talk about it.”