Bernie Sanders was probably the most popular politician in Wednesday night’s debate.
So popular, in fact, that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump found themselves fighting to align themselves with the statements of the rumpled Jewish liberal from Vermont.
It was Clinton who first sought to side with Sanders, whom she fiercely battled for months during the primary season.
“I want to make college debt-free and for families making less than $125,000, you will not get a tuition bill from a public college or university if the plan that I worked on with Bernie Sanders is enacted,” Clinton said.
When running for the Democratic nomination, Clinton and Sanders sparred over the question of free college, but after Clinton won the nomination she moved to formulate a compromise plan with Sanders, adopting his idea of free tuition but adding an income test to the plan.
But while Sanders, who has been out on the campaign trail in recent weeks campaigning forcefully for Clinton, could expect the Democratic candidate to plug him in the debate, he probably never thought he’d get a positive mention from Donald Trump.
For Trump, Sanders’ past criticism of Clinton was valuable ammunition in his on-stage attacks on his Democratic rival.
“And you know, Bernie Sanders, he said you have bad judgment. You do,” Trump shot at Clinton. “John Podesta said you have terrible instincts. Bernie Sanders said you have bad judgment. I agree with both.”
This attack prompted Clinton to offer calling up her former rival to ask who he loves more.
“Well, you should ask Bernie Sanders who he’s supporting for president.”
Trump, without loosing a beat, intervened: “Which is a big mistake.”
Nathan Guttman staff writer, is the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Ha’aretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Contact Nathan at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter @nathanguttman