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Story highlights

Bernie Sanders says he still won't attack Hillary Clinton on her "damn emails" because voters want to hear about other issues

But Sanders has opened up attacks on Clinton in other areas, accusing her of being a latecomer to liberal causes

(CNN) —  

Bernie Sanders has opened up his line of attack on Hillary Clinton, accusing her of being a latecomer to popular liberal causes and railing about her taking corporate donations. But there’s one item off the table: her “damn emails.”

“I think the American people get tired of seeing front page stories from the media day after day about emails,” Sanders told CNN’s Gloria Borger for an interview airing Monday on “New Day.” “They want to know why their kids can’t afford to go to college. They want to know why they can’t afford health care, why we have the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality. That’s what they want.”

Pundits knocked Sanders in the first Democratic debate for effectively handing Clinton a free pass on what has been perhaps the most damaging issue of her candidacy, her secret use of a private email server to conduct government business.

“I do not regret that at all,” he said of his debate comment.

But he’s been ramping up the heat on other issues, in a notable departure from earlier in the campaign, when he largely avoided even glancing shots.

Sanders’ shots on Clinton’s late-coming opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline and global trade pacts, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, have been none-too-subtle, even if he doesn’t mention her by name. He kept up the hits Friday night during a Democratic forum hosted by MSNBC in South Carolina.

And Clinton has had no trouble hitting back at Sanders when her team deems it necessary. Clinton, who is rising in national and early-state polls, stayed above the hits during Friday’s Democratic forum. But just a few weeks ago, she alleged Sanders’ comment about too much “shouting” over gun control was really a sexist shot aimed at her.

“I’m not shouting,” Clinton said last month in a new campaign line auditioned at the Iowa Jefferson-Jackson Dinner. “It’s just that when women talk, some people think we’re shouting.”

Sanders and his team have consistently said he is not attacking Clinton but instead drawing contrasts with the Democratic front-runner. And he also blames the media for baiting him.

“I mean, I cannot walk down the corridors of Capitol Hill without being really begged by the media to attack Hillary Clinton,” Sanders told Borger. “They want to make this personal. … I choose not to do that. Let’s talk about the economy, let’s talk about Wall Street, let’s talk about climate change, let’s talk about education. Frankly, that is what the American people want to get discussed.”

Sanders’ campaign has become more serious in recent weeks, focusing on ballot access and organizing the raw enthusiasm for the longtime democratic socialist. Part of that shift has put him reaching out to African-American voters, a key voting bloc that stands strong behind Clinton in polling.