Top Hillary Clinton campaign aide Joel Benenson said on CNN Monday that if Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) wants Clinton to participate in a debate preceding April’s Democratic primary in New York, then he’ll need to change his “tone.”
The comments came after the Sanders campaign said over the weekend that they wanted to challenge the former secretary of state to a debate before the April 19 delegate-rich primary.
When asked about the proposition, Benenson dodged the question and instead insisted that the biggest news of the weekend was a Washington Post story that detailed how the Sanders campaign plans to sharpen their rhetoric against Clinton in the coming days and weeks.
“They’re talking about running harsher negatives now,” Benenson said. “This is a man who said he’d never run a negative ad ever. He’s now running them, they’re now planning to run more.”
“Let’s see the tone of the campaign he wants to run before we get to any other questions,” he added.
CNN host Kate Bolduan went on to press Benenson on why the Clinton campaign doesn’t want to debate Sanders again, despite agreeing in January to participate in an additional four debates.
“What’s the risk?” she asked.
“There’s no risk. [Clinton has] done very well in the debates. The debates have been very good, but Sen. Sanders doesn’t get to decide when we debate, particularly when he’s running a very negative campaign against us,” Benenson replied. “Let’s see if he goes back to the kind of tone he said he was going to set early on. If he does that, then we’ll talk about debates.”
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