White House quick to jump to Clinton's aid in first big kerfuffle with Sanders: Hillary more qualified than any recent candidate in history

The White House jumps into the fray to clarify that President Obama is "proud" of Clinton's service

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published April 7, 2016 8:56PM (EDT)

  (Reuters/Brian Snyder/Dominick Reuter/Photo montage by Salon)
(Reuters/Brian Snyder/Dominick Reuter/Photo montage by Salon)

With the Democratic presidential campaign moving to New York, it now feels like developments coming out of the recently not-so-newsworthy battle between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have sped up in less than the state's proverbial minute and have quickly taken an even more dramatic tone.

First, Clinton's campaign was quick to jump all over Sanders' supposedly "disastrous" interview with the New York Daily News editorial board, blasting out the transcript to argue that Sanders is woefully underprepared to move past platitudes about many of his policy proposals -- including his signature refrain on breaking up the big banks. Reports soon followed that the Clinton campaign planned to paint Sanders as unelectable.

When MSNBC's Joe Scarborough pressed Clinton on what CNN described as her campaign's move to "disqualify" Sanders in the eyes of Democratic voters after suffering seven losses to the Vermont senator, the former secretary of state called her rival unprepared, in so many words.

“I think he hadn’t done his homework and he’d been talking for more than a year about doing things that he obviously hadn’t really studied or understood, and that does raise a lot of questions,” she said Wednesday morning.

By Wednesday evening, Sanders had responded, rattling off five reasons he argued Clinton was "unqualified" to be President of the United States -- including her support of the current President's Trans-Pacific Partnership -- at a rally in Philadelphia. Thursday morning, Sanders defended his move towards aggressive campaigning, claiming he was merely reacting to reports of Clinton's plan of attack and vowing, "this campaign will fight back.”

By midday Thursday, the New York-based media was busy marveling at Clinton's inability to swipe into the New York City subway and Ohio Governor John Kasich's ability to scarf down an entire deli menu, but by then the Sanders campaign had already doubled down on its newer, more aggressive style against Clinton and another Clinton, Bill, had already found himself in the middle of a whole new mini-scandal -- doubling down on the bunk premise of so-called superpredators to defend his notorious crime bill.

But, back in Washington, D.C., where time apparently moves a whole lot slower, the White House was asked to respond to the first real back-and-forth of attacks out of the usually tame (and lame) Democratic contest Thursday afternoon. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the White House had Clinton's back in this battle.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz said that “The president has said that Secretary Clinton comes to this race with more experience than any other non-vice president in recent campaign history," during a daily briefing today, adding that President Obama was "fortunate" to have Clinton serve as his secretary of state. The President himself has not yet commented on the battle between Sanders and Clinton.

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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2016 Democratic Primary Bernie Sanders Election 2016 Elections 2016 Hillary Clinton White House