Hillary Clinton suggested Sunday that Democratic rival Bernie Sanders has not been thoroughly tested in the campaign, and that this could affect his chances of winning what will likely be a fierce general election campaign against presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.
“I don’t think he’s had a single negative ad ever run against him,” Mrs. Clinton said of Mr. Sanders in an interview to be aired Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press. “And that’s fine. But we know what we’re going into, and we understand what it’s going to take to win in the fall.”
Mr. Sanders has repeatedly cited polls suggesting he would fare better than Mrs. Clinton against Mr. Trump in the general election. It’s a key part of his argument, in the closing days of an intensifying primary season, that his candidacy should get serious consideration from Democratic voters and officials despite trailing Mrs. Clinton in votes and delegates by significant margins.
Mrs. Clinton’s supporters have said for some time that polls between Mr. Trump and the Democratic hopefuls are misleading because while Mrs. Clinton has been the target of harsh Republican attacks, Mr. Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, has largely escaped such scrutiny.
But Sunday may be the first time Mrs. Clinton herself has made the argument so directly, according to a transcript of the Meet the Press interview released before the program aired. “I have been vetted and tested, and I think that that puts me in a very strong position,” Mrs. Clinton said.
Mrs. Clinton suggested she was concerned that Mr. Trump was seizing this period, when he has all but wrapped up GOP nomination and the Democrats are still fighting it out, to legitimize his campaign despite the many inflammatory comments he made during the primaries.
“My campaign is not going to let Donald Trump try to normalize himself in this period,” Mrs. Clinton said. “And I do not want Americans, and you know, good thinking Republicans, as well as Democrats and independents, to start to believe that this is a normal candidacy. It isn’t.”
Mrs. Clinton was asked separately about whether she would meet the demands Mr. Sanders might make of the Democratic Party given his strong showing in the primaries, should she be the nominee.
Runner-up candidates often receive prime speaking slots at the convention and possibly input into the party platform. But Mr. Sanders has made clear he views the nomination process itself as unfair, and his supporters have suggested moves like getting rid of so-called superdelegates and opening all Democratic primaries to independents and Republicans.
Mrs. Clinton said she would listen to Mr. Sanders’ demands, but would not discuss what she might consider. “We’re going to talk with him when he’s ready to talk, and listen to him, and we will take into account what he is asking for,” Mrs. Clinton said.
Mrs. Clinton also said she had not decided whether to agree to Mr. Sanders’ request that the two candidates hold a final debate in California before the June 7 primary in that state. The Sanders camp has been pointedly suggesting such a debate for days.
“I haven’t thought about it,” Mrs. Clinton said. “We’ll consider it.”