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Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders hold town hall meeting ahead of N.H. primary

Democratic Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton speaks during a

Democratic Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton speaks during a CNN and the New Hampshire Democratic Party hosted Democratic Presidential Town Hall at the Derry Opera House on February 3, 2016 in Derry, New Hampshire. Credit: Getty Images / Justin Sullivan

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders each tried to establish their credentials as progressives as they vied for the votes of Democrats and independents in next week’s New Hampshire primary.

At a town hall last night in Derry, New Hampshire, Sanders continued a critique of Clinton’s positions that he’s made since his close second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses. The former secretary of state, he said, is closer to the middle of political spectrum than a true progressive. “Some of my best friends are moderates. I want moderates,” he said at the event hosted by CNN. “But you can’t be a moderate and a progressive. They are different.”

Clinton countered that Sanders was too narrow in his definition, saying it would exclude President Barack Obama and other liberal icons in the Democratic Party. “I’m a progressive who likes to get things done,’’ she said. “I don’t think it helps for the senator to be making those kinds of comparisons.’’

The format had each appearing separately and giving extended answers to questions from the moderator and audience. They were trying to frame their images even though both are well-known in the state. Sanders is a senator from neighboring Vermont and Clinton has been in the public eye and public office since she campaigned here with her husband, former President Bill Clinton, in 1992.

By comparison to the rancorous Republican contest, the arguments were respectful and the criticisms mild.

Clinton said she was “proud” of the way she and Sanders have waged their campaigns. She said she and Sanders share many of the same ideals as wells as the priority preventing Republican from regaining the White House. “We share a lot of the same big progressive goals but we go about them in different ways,” she said.

Even given an opening to criticize, the responses were measured. Asked why voters thought Clinton was stronger on terrorism, Sanders said it was because of her experience. Still, he said, he was on the right side of the defining foreign policy decision of the era with his vote against the 2003 invasion of Iraq. “I have the judgment,” he said. He added later that she’s had a long and distinguished career.

As senator, Clinton voted in favor of the authorization to go to war, a key factor in her loss to then-Sen. Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic nomination race. As she has in the past, Clinton last night called that vote a mistake.

He disputed Clinton’s contention that she’s best equipped to win the November general election, “I believe quite honestly that I am the strongest candidate to do that because I think I can drive a large voter turnout, bring in new energy into the Democratic Party,” he said. Sanders also said he hoped real estate mogul and reality TV star Donald Trump would win the Republican nomination.

Their appearance at the town hall came two days after Clinton’s razor-thin win in Iowa. While polls favor Sanders in New Hampshire, Clinton retains an edge in the states that follow with their own primaries or caucuses.

They are expected to appear at a debate tonight.

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