INDIANOLA, Iowa — With only 11 days standing between her and the Iowa caucuses, Hillary Clinton tried to paint 2016 rival Bernie Sanders as ill prepared to deal with foreign affairs and a purveyor of gridlock Thursday as she tries to regain her grip in early voting states and stop her sliding poll numbers.
Clinton told a crowd 500 at Simpson College that the Vermont socialist sounds like he "hasn't thought it through" when discussing foreign policy, especially on matters in the Middle East. The attack is a fresh one from the former secretary of state and the Clinton campaign, attempting to frame Sanders as politically unaware on the world stage.
"Now, Sen. Sanders doesn't talk very much about foreign policy. But when he does, it raises concerns because it can sound like he hasn't thought it through," Clinton said. "For example, he suggested we invited into Iranian troops into Syria. That is like asking the arsonist to be the firefighter."
"As bad as things are in Syria…more troops are only going to make it worse. The challenges a president has to grapple with are beyond complicated — both at home and abroad," Clinton said. The new addition to her stump will likely stick over the next few weeks, with her campaign team set to hold a conference call with reporters Thursday afternoon on Sanders' foreign policy.
Clinton also continued to argue against Sanders' continued call for a single-payer/Medicare-for-all healthcare system, saying his call and attempt to overhaul would result in gridlock, which she argued has plagued Congress since the Republicans took over the House of Representatives in 2010. Clinton also tried to press upon the crowd that she is the one who can find "common ground" with Republicans in Congress, who are fighting to hold onto their majority in the Senate.
"We can get this done without another divisive debate about our entire healthcare system, and without giving Republicans an opening to come in and tear down all that we've achieved," Clinton said. "I know Sen. Sanders cares about covering more people, as I do. But rather than build on the progress we've made, he wants to start over from scratch with a whole new system."
"In theory, there's a lot to like about some of his ideas. But in theory isn't enough. A president has to deliver in reality," Clinton said, pointing out that Sanders has introduced his healthcare plan nine times during his tenure in Congress. "Now he has a new plan. You hear a promise to build a whole new system — but that's not what you'll get. You'll get gridlock and an endless wait for advances that will never come."
"I know how to find common ground and stand my ground," Clinton added later on.
The comments come after new poll showing Sanders trouncing Clinton in New Hampshire by 27 points (60 percent-33 percent) in a new CNN/WMUR poll released Tuesday. According to the latest RealClearPolitics average, Sanders currently holds a 12-point advantage (51 percent-39 percent) over Clinton in the Granite State, where she beat then-Sen. Barack Obama in 2008 to revive her campaign.
Clinton's lead in Iowa has also become tenuous as the caucuses near. According to the latest RCP average, she only holds a five-point lead over Sanders despite leading by 15 points a month ago. Clinton finished third in Iowa in 2008, behind Obama and John Edwards.
The stop at Simpson College was her first of three events on the day, which conclude with a rally in Iowa City with pop star Demi Lovato.