Hillary Clinton confessed Thursday to something liberals have long suspected: being a moderate Democrat.
“You know, I get accused of being kind of moderate and center,” Clinton told the audience at a Women for Hillary event in Ohio. “I plead guilty.”
The line is new for Clinton, who spent a large portion of her early campaign casting herself as a liberal fighter who has been progressive for her entire life. To many on the left, those lines never really rang true.
“I take a backseat to no one,” Clinton told a New Hampshire audience in July, “When you look at my record in standing up and fighting for progressive values.”
That line was seen as a subtle shot at independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is running to the left of Clinton. Polls at the time had Sanders behind Clinton by around 8 percentage points. Today, on the other hand, a series of polls have shown Sanders winning in New Hampshire and a Quinnipiac University poll out Thursday had the senator even with Clinton in Iowa.
The Clintons – both Bill and Hillary – have long been seen as centrist Democrats, politicians willing to work with Republicans to strike compromise deals. Bill Clinton did this consistently in the White House, pushing free trade agreements and prioritizing debt reduction.
Sanders, meanwhile, has run on a platform of breaking up big banks, opposing free trade agreements and blocking the Keystone XL pipeline.
On Thursday, Clinton reiterated that willingness to compromise, telling the audience that while she would “meet anytime, anywhere with anyone to find common ground,” she would also “stand my ground” on issues like abortion and women’s rights, among others.
Clinton argued at the Columbus event that being in the “center” is a positive, not a negative.
“I think sometimes it’s important when you are in the elected arena – you try to figure out, how do you bring people together to get something done instead of just standing on the opposite sides yelling at each other,” Clinton said.
Before that Clinton told the audience that it was important for voters to demand specifics – not just “broad stokes” – from candidates.
“Some people want it to be about everything other than what they would do when they are president,” Clinton said. “I think it really matters that people tell you what they will do and how they intend to do it, not just in broad stokes but in details. How are you the voters supposed to make up your minds?”
Clinton and her team have been hesitant about going after Sanders directly, but as the senator has risen in the polls, the former secretary of state has started to make comments that could easily be perceived as attacks against the senator who draws large crowds.
Clinton’s supporters have even begun to pick up on the centrist vs. liberal aspect to the Clinton-Sanders race.
Before Clinton came on stage, Dana Ellis, a digital marketing strategist from the Columbus area, said that while Sanders has captured “the really progressive liberal arm of the party,” Clinton’s “more centrist Democrats understand that in order to win the White House you have to have a broader appeal.”