Bernie Sanders’ campaign accused Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton of “playing silly political games” with debate dates as both candidates readied their final appeals to Wisconsin voters ahead of Tuesday’s critical primary.
“I want it,” Clinton told NBC’s “Meet the Press,” in response to suggestions that she is avoiding a debate with Sanders in her adopted home state of New York ahead of its April 19 primary.
Sanders, a Brooklynite who has won five of the last six primaries or caucuses, has challenged Clinton to a debate in delegate-rich New York.
The Clinton campaign has offered a few dates — including a weekday morning and at the same time as Monday night’s NCAA men’s basketball champions — that the Sanders campaign and others see as less than optimal for viewership.
Still, Clinton said she was “confident” about the debate happening.
Late Sunday, the Sanders campaign countered by saying the candidate is available to debate April 10, 11, 12 or 13.
Sanders campaign spokesman Michael Briggs also said the Clinton campaign “disingenuously” announced that it had agreed to a debate on a day when it knew Sanders already had locked in park permits for a major rally in New York City.
“Let’s stop the silly political games,” Briggs said. “Let’s get on with debating the candidates’ stands on serious issues affecting New York and the United States.”
Briggs said in a statement late Sunday that Sanders accepted an invitation for a prime-time debate on April 10 on NBC News.
“We hope the Clinton campaign also accepts. The April 10 debate date is one of four dates that the Sanders campaign had proposed for a debate with Secretary Clinton before the New York primary election,” he said.
Clinton had no public events Sunday in Wisconsin, where some polls show Sanders with a slight lead.
Though she has attempted to focus her resources of late on a general election race with GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump or Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Clinton also made clear Sunday that Sanders remains a political threat.
“I certainly haven’t moved on,” she told NBC. “I know that I still have work to do to win the nomination.”
She also repeated her regret for using a private email server for official communications while secretary of state, amid nagging concerns about her trustworthiness, and said the FBI had not contacted her about being interviewed regarding its investigation of the email matter.
Sanders and the top two GOP presidential candidates, Trump and Cruz, were campaigning Sunday in Wisconsin.
Trump, the Republican front-runner, doubled-down Sunday night on his comments that the US should “do a better deal” with Japan, South Korea and other allies, saying they should pay more for America’s protection while taking a greater role in their defense — including building their own nuclear weapons.
Responding to questions at a Fox News Channel “On the Record” town hall two days before the Wisconsin primary — where polls show he trails Cruz — Trump also said that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour wasn’t good for business or jobs creation.
“If you start raising that minimum wage, you’re going to make a lot of our companies even more non-competitive,” he said.
Trump also delved into his plans to change the nation’s tax code by “simplifying” it.
“The very rich are probably going to end up paying more, but there’s an incentive for them to invest and create jobs in the country,” he said.
The other Republican candidate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, told ABC’s “This Week” that the Republican convention — which could happen in July without a clear nominee based on delegate wins — could be a civics lesson for the country.
“Kids will spend less time focusing on Bieber and Kardashian and more time focusing on how we elect presidents,” said Kasich, who has won only Ohio. “It will be so cool.”
Trump on Sunday called for Kasich to drop out of the race, arguing he shouldn’t be allowed to continue accumulating delegates if he has no chance of being the nominee — a call repeated during Sunday night’s Fox News town hall.
Trump has 736 pledged delegates, followed by Cruz with 463, then Kasich with 143 — with 1,237 needed to secure the nomination.
Trump, however, after a difficult week, now trails Cruz in Wisconsin, after some polls showed him leading by double-digits several weeks ago.
Trump said Sunday that Kasich could be considered as a nominee at the GOP convention in July even without competing in the remaining nominating contests.
Trump told reporters at a Milwaukee diner that he had relayed his concerns to Republican National Committee officials at a meeting in Washington this past week.
“He’s taking my votes,” Trump said about Kasich.
The Kasich campaign tried to flip the script, contending that neither Trump nor Cruz would have enough delegates to win the nomination outright going into the convention.
“Since he thinks it’s such a good idea, we look forward to Trump dropping out before the convention,” said Kasich spokesman Chris Schrimpf.
Trump’s declaration came as Republican concerns grew about the prospect of convention chaos if Trump fails to lock up his party’s nomination — or even if he does.