There can be little argument that Sanders, with his constant lampooning of “the billionaires,” has owned the conversation about money in politics. The Vermont senator proudly touts his lack of a super PAC (he did so again in his victory speech) to strike a contrast with Clinton’s vast political machine.
But Clinton moved in on Sanders’s territory Tuesday night.
In this campaign, you've heard a lot about Washington and about Wall Street. Now, Senator Sanders and I both want to get secret, unaccountable money out of politics. And let's remember — let's remember — Citizens United, one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in our country's history, was actually a case about a right-wing attack on me and my campaign.
A right-wing organization took aim at me and ended up damaging our entire democracy. So, yes, you are not going to find anybody more committed to aggressive campaign finance reform than me.
Curbing the influence of money in politics hasn’t been a major theme of Clinton’s campaign, for obvious reasons. Outside groups have raised $48.1 million to promote her candidacy, according to fund-raising data maintained by the Center for Responsive Politics.
But Sanders has proven any message about knocking down the wealthy is a hit, and Clinton clearly believes she can grab a piece of this one. As she noted, the Citizens United Supreme Court case that opened the outside spending floodgates did indeed center on a 90-minute, anti-Clinton movie produced by a conservative advocacy group during her first White House bid in 2008.
Clinton also made a play for the young voters who back Sanders in overwhelming numbers, emphasizing in a remarkably direct way that “even if they are not supporting me now, I support them.” It wasn't hard to miss the largely young crowd that was behind Clinton during her speech -- something that couldn't be a coincidence.
And she staked her own claim to a fired-up base, pushing back against the broad perception that Sanders has the more passionate following.
I know that doesn't fit with the narrative. I know there are those who want to deny the passion and the purpose you all show every day for this campaign. But you are the reason we are here, and you are the reason we are going to win the nomination and then win this election together!
In short, Clinton wants voters and the media to see her a little bit more like they see Sanders.
Meanwhile, her opponent seemed emboldened by his commanding win, speaking in terms of “when,” not “if,” he becomes president. It was clearly a deliberate choice of words. At one point, he began a sentence with “when we make it to the White House” and paused for effect, as the crowd whooped in delight at his confidence.
Besides casting his gaze toward November, however, Sanders didn’t make any notable pivots in his remarks. He did nothing significant to address his deficit among black voters — for which he was called out on “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend — taking only a moment in his 28-minute speech to pledge an end to “institutional racism.” That was in contrast to Clinton, who early in her comments turned to the tainted water in heavily black Flint, Mich., and made appeals to non-white voters paramount in her speech.
Sanders’s lengthy address was largely a recitation of familiar points. He even recycled a line from his speech after last week’s Iowa caucuses.
IOWA: I think the people of Iowa have sent a very profound message to the political establishment, to the economic establishment, and, by the way, to the media establishment.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: The people of New Hampshire have sent a profound message to the political establishment, to the economic establishment, and, by the way, to the media establishment.