INDIANOLA, Iowa (AP) — With days to go before the lead-off Iowa caucuses, Hillary Clinton on Thursday ramped up her attacks on fellow Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, saying she is not interested in ideas that will "never make it in the real world."
The former secretary of state offered a sharp assessment of the Vermont senator's proposal for a single-payer health care system Thursday morning, saying it would lead to "gridlock" in Washington. She also questioned his foreign policy ideas.
Clinton took up the foreign policy attack in her 30-minute speech Thursday, criticizing Sanders' suggestion to invite Iranian troops into Syria to help fight Islamic State militants, which she said was like "asking the arsonist to be the firefighter."
"Sen. Sanders doesn't talk very much about foreign policy. But when he does it raises concerns because sometimes it can sound like he hasn't really thought it through," Clinton said in Indianola.
Clinton, who is in the midst of a campaign swing through Iowa, stressed that this was a tough race and said she knows how to get "knocked down" and get back up.
Her pitch made sense to Jim Bonney, 63, of West Des Moines, who plans to caucus for her.
"A lot of my friends are Sanders supporters," Bonney said. "I like his ideas, but he can't get them accomplished."
Sanders and Clinton are locked in a tight race going into the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses, prompting Clinton and her supporters to grow more aggressive. On Thursday, David Brock, a top Clinton ally, criticized a new ad from Sanders, saying it presents a "bizarre" image of America, focused on white voters.
Brock, a longtime Clinton supporter who runs several super PACs aiding her candidacy said Thursday that a new Sanders ad was a "significant slight to the Democratic base."
He added, "From this ad it seems black lives don't matter much to Bernie Sanders."
The uplifting, gauzy ad features images of his rallies as Simon and Garfunkel's "America" plays. The people featured in the commercial are overwhelmingly white, with only a few individuals possibly representing other racial or ethnic groups. No words are spoken but the spot aims to highlight the grassroots support Sanders campaign has attracted.
Sanders campaign shot back, citing Brock's history as a conservative activist focused on attacking the Clintons before he became their ally, and saying Clinton should be "ashamed" of her association with him.
"Twenty-five years ago it was Brock — a mud-slinging, right-wing extremist — who tried to destroy Anita Hill, a distinguished African-American law professor. He later was forced to apologize for his lies about her," said Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs. "Today, he is lying about Sen. Sanders."
Sanders has been working to expand his support among the black and Latino voters, who make up a significant part of the Democratic party.
Facing a tight race in Iowa and trailing in New Hampshire, Clinton's campaign sees her support among minority voters as a major advantage. Black voters make up a big part of the Democratic voting base in Southern states like South Carolina that hold their contest later in the primary.
Over the weekend, her campaign is sending Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro into the state, part of a fleet of high-profile minority backers who've been campaigning on her behalf.
In Nashua, New Hampshire, meanwhile, Sanders took a swipe at Clinton over boosting Social Security benefits, saying he would lift the cap on Social Security earnings to raise more revenue to keep the federal retirement system solvent for the next 50 years, and give seniors more money each year.
"I would hope very much that Secretary Clinton would join me in making certain that seniors in this country do not have to live on $12,000, $13,000 a year," he said. "Here's an area where I think Secretary Clinton and I have a strong difference of opinion."
Sanders said he would raise the current $118,500 limit on taxable Social Security earnings and use the money to expand benefits to seniors.
Sergio Bustos contributed to this report from Nashua, N.H.