After an upset victory in Michigan, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders came into the Univision Democratic Debate looking to capitalize on the momentum while former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sought to recover and affirm her status as the frontrunner.
Throughout the Democratic nominating contests, Sanders has been reluctant to attack Clinton, for he has insisted on running a positive campaign focused on the issues.
During this debate, however, Sanders criticized Clinton's Wall Street ties, her record and even her campaign.
One of the moderators asked, "Do you have reason to believe that [Clinton] says one thing in private and the other in public?" regarding Clinton's inconsistencies.
In response, Sanders said:
She gave several speeches to Goldman Sachs, one of the Wall Street financial institutions whose greed and illegal behavior helped destroy our economy a number of years ago. When you get paid $225,000 a speech that means that must have been an extraordinarily wonderful speech. I would think that a speech so great, that you got paid so much money for, that you would like to share it with the American people.
On the topic of college tuition affordability, Clinton Said, "The government has to quit making money of off lending money to young people to get to get their education."
During his response, Sanders said, "What Senator Clinton [said] is absolutely right. I think I said it many months before she said it. But thanks for copying a good idea."
Later on in the debate, Sanders returned to critiquing Clinton's ties to Wall Street. "Clearly the secretary's words to Wall Street has really intimidated them. And that is why they've given her $15 million in campaign contributions."
He followed up with another line, disavowing Wall Street support. "I am proud that the gentleman who is the head of Goldman Sachs – he didn't give me $225,000 in speaking fees – he said I was dangerous. And he's right. I am dangerous for Wall Street."
Sanders was visibly more aggressive this debate, and it appeared to rattle Clinton. She looked upset and defensive. Some of her responses were awkward.
She described herself as "not a natural politician," when the moderator alleged voters perceive her as untrustworthy. Since one of her biggest drawbacks is the criticism of being a political opportunist – particularly on the issues of marriage equality, the Trans Pacific Partnership and Keystone XL – this answer was lukewarm at best.
Clinton defended the the Wall Street bailout by contrasting Sanders's vehement opposition to the bailout:
Everybody who, quote, got money from the, quote, bailout that also included money for the auto rescue, has paid it back. So the Treasury was out nothing. Now that will no longer happen, because we have Dodd-Frank, and we will break up banks that pose a systemic threat to our economy.
Overall, Sanders had a strong debate to follow up his unexpected Michigan win. Whether it was Sanders' aggression or tough questions, Clinton looked uncomfortable, and it was her weakest debate thus far.
Regardless, Clinton holds leads in the polls for the upcoming states. Whether this debate will help Sanders in the upcoming primaries in Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Illinois and Missouri remains to be seen.
Reach Staff Reporter Sam Corey here.