“That is a fact, my friends, whether the Republicans like it or not,” Clinton said in a spirited, highly partisan address. “Elections have consequences.”
She also rejected the Republican claim that there is not enough time to consider a nominee in this election year, noting that the confirmation of Justice Clarence Thomas, the most contentious Supreme Court nomination of the modern era, took about 100 days.
Bernie Sanders delivered much the same message when he appeared on the same stage about 45 minutes later.
“It appears that some of my Republican colleagues in the Senate have a very interesting view of the Constitution of the United States,” the Vermont senator said. “Apparently they believe that the Constitution does not allow a Democratic president to bring forth a nominee to replace Justice Scalia. I strongly disagree with that.”
Sanders said the Supreme Court has nine members and said "we need that ninth member."
The Colorado Democrats 83rd Annual Dinner drew both Clinton and Sanders to a state that holds its presidential caucuses on March 1, the potentially pivotal day on the nominating calendar known as Super Tuesday. Sanders also held a pre-dinner rally a few blocks away that drew a crowd of more than 18,000 people, according to his campaign.
The death of Scalia and the changed political landscape resulting from the unexpected high court vacancy offered something new for the Democrats to weigh in on in the midst of what has turned into a surprisingly competitive and spirited battle for the nomination.
A few hours before Clinton and Sanders spoke here, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement that the Senate controlled by his party should not confirm a replacement for Scalia until after the election.
Both Democratic presidential hopefuls also sought Saturday to press some of the key arguments for their candidacies during their dinner appearances.
As she did earlier in the day in Nevada, Clinton said that she is not a “single-issue candidate,” a not-so-veiled suggestion that she sees Sanders that way.
The former secretary of state also sought to contrast her more pragmatic approach to policy with that of Sanders, who routinely tells his audiences to “think big” on issues, such as moving to a single-payer health-care plan.
“I’m not making promises I can’t keep,” Clinton said.
Sanders, meanwhile, pointed to the size of his late-afternoon rally to bolster one of his key arguments: that he is generating more excitement on the trail.
The people he is bringing out, Sanders said, better positions the Democratic Party to win in the fall. His message to working people and young people, Sanders said, is “Come on in, this is your party.”
At his rally, coming off a big win in the New Hampshire primary this week, Sanders sounded a confident note about the next two nominating contests in Nevada and South Carolina.
“We’ve got a real shot to win both of those states,” he said.
And, he said, with the help of his audience from Colorado, “we are going to win right here.”
Gearan reported from Washington.