NEW YORK --Hillary Clinton hopes to capture what her team says would be an all-but-insurmountable lead by the end of the month. Campaigning across southern New York on Monday, Clinton targeted Sanders' record on guns, immigration, Wall Street reform and foreign policy.
"I have noticed that under the bright spotlight and scrutiny here in New York, Sen. Sanders has had trouble answering questions," she told reporters after a campaign event at an Indian restaurant in Queens, New York.
Sanders hit back at a rally in the upstate New York city of Binghamton, rallying supporters with a lengthy rift slamming Clinton for promoting fracking as secretary of state and only offering conditional opposition to the practice. The oil and gas drilling method, reviled by environmentalists, has been banned in New York.
The harsher tone comes just days before the two Democrats will meet on stage for the first Democratic primary debate in more than a month. Since their last faceoff, the contest has taken a decidedly negative turn, with the two candidates trading a series of barbs over their qualifications for the White House.
Clinton has avoided directly calling for Sanders to exit the race, saying she's campaigned until the end in 2008 and that she's all for a "good hard contest." But she denounced the aggressive tone that some of his supporters have taken toward her, saying she'd seen reports that her backers have been targeted and harassed.
"There seems to be a growing level of anxiety in that campaign, which I hope doesn't spill over into the way that his supporters treat other people," she said.
The April 19 primary in New York has become a make-or-break moment for both the campaigns. Clinton's campaign is pushing for big wins in New York and across the northeast
Sanders believes he can turn a string of primary wins into a victory in the delegate-rich state. He needs to win 68 percent of the remaining delegates and uncommitted superdelegates if he hopes to clinch the Democratic nomination. That would require blow-out victories in upcoming states, big and small, including the New York primary.