CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Sen. Bernie Sanders is questioning why Democratic presidential rival Hillary Rodman Clinton won't take a stand on the emerging trade deal with Pacific nations, which he calls "enormously important issue" she's been dodging.
A day after launching his longshot campaign, the Vermont independent returned to neighboring New Hampshire on Wednesday, where a blunt voter told him she wants him to thrash Clinton in the primary race, not merely siphon some votes away from her. "Why can't we ask Hillary to give up her spot and give it to you?" Jeanny Aldrich of Chesterfield demanded.
"I could be wrong, but I suspect she would disagree with you," Sanders quipped before saying he's never run a negative campaign and won't start now.
Instead, he said, the campaign should feature civil debate on serious issues, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that would eliminate tariffs and other barriers for the U.S., Canada and Asian countries conducting commerce with each other. Sanders opposes that agreement along with other past trade deals; Clinton has expressed qualms about it but hasn't weighed in for or against it.
"I think these trade agreements have not worked," Sanders said. "Now, Hillary Clinton can be for the trade agreement — the president is. She can be against the trade agreement — I am, Elizabeth Warren, many others of us are.
"But I just don't know how you don't have an opinion on this enormously important issue, which is her view. So what I think we need here in New Hampshire and around this country is a serious debate on serious issues."
Clinton's campaign declined to comment when asked about Sanders' remarks. During a recent visit to New Hampshire, Clinton said she didn't yet know enough about the Asian-Pacific trade deal to say where she comes down on the issue. "I want to judge this when I see exactly what's in it and whether it meets my standards," Clinton said last week.
Sanders, 73, said he is calling on liberals to join him in a "political revolution" to elevate attention to income inequality, a campaign finance overhaul and climate change — issues that have motivated Warren, the Massachusetts senator who appears to be sitting out the 2016 race despite intense interest from liberals in seeing her run.
Sanders has long blasted the concentration of wealth in America and assailed a "billionaire class" that he says has taken over politics.
"They obviously own much of the economy," he said. "But what my campaign for president is about, is to say, we are not going to give up. We love this country too much to say that the billionaire class can have it all. We are going to fight back."
"They have the money, they have the power," he said. "What do we have? We have the people. And when people stand together, we win."
Aldrich, the voter who questioned Sanders, said she doesn't feel that Clinton represents voters on the left, or even the middle, of the political spectrum.
"I think the Republicans are so far to the right, and I think the Clintons took the country way to the right," she said.