Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is doubling down on his attacks of front-runner Hillary Clinton as unqualified for the White House, just as the two are locked in a tightening battle for April's critical New York primary.
"She has attacked me for being unqualified," Sanders told reporters in Philadelphia Thursday, defending his previous night's critiques of his opponent. "And if I am going to be attacked for being 'unqualified,' I will respond in kind."
The Vermont senator pointed to recent news stories that suggested Clinton had wondered about Sanders' qualifications for the presidency, specifying one CNN report that laid out the Clinton campaign strategy as aiming to disqualify the senator and "unify the party later."
"If Secretary Clinton thinks that just because I'm from a small state in Vermont -- and we're going to come here to New York and go to Pennsylvania, and they're gonna beat us up and they're gonna go after us in some kind of really uncalled for way -- that we're not gonna fight back?" Sanders continued. "They can guess again. 'Cause that's not the case. This campaign will fight back."
Sanders, whose campaign gained crucial momentum after a win in Wisconsin Tuesday, went on to hit Clinton for her own record, pointing to her Iraq War vote in 2002 and her support of international trade agreements as major disqualifiers.
"If you want to question my qualifications, let me suggest this: That maybe the American people might wonder about your qualifications, Madam Secretary, when you voted for the war in Iraq," he said. "People might want to wonder about your qualifications when you supported virtually every trade agreement -- trade agreements which have cost the American worker millions of decent paying jobs."
"I don't think I have to explain to the American people what Wall Street did to the American economy," Sanders added. "Are you qualified to be president of the United States when you're raising millions of dollars from Wall Street?"
Sanders capped off his screed with a warning that if Clinton wants to engage in a negative campaign against him, he would fire back with equal force.
"They're going to question my qualifications?" he asked, in seeming disbelief. "I have a right to question theirs."
As CBS News' Nancy Cordes points out, however, while Clinton has been critical of the senator, she has never labeled him as unqualified for the presidency.
Clinton, asked about the fact that Sanders had said she was unqualified, laughed it off as "kind of a silly thing to say."