Clinton Campaign: Sanders Needs To 'Change His Tone'

The chief strategist for the Hillary Clinton campaign had a stern warning for Bernie Sanders this morning, "change your tone," or the Clinton camp will withdraw from their next debate. Clinton's chief strategist, Joel Benenson, reiterated his points on CNN this morning, stating that the Sanders campaign has been increasingly negative and that they've broken their promise not to run negative ads.

"I think the real question is what kind of campaign is Senator Sanders going to run going forward, he pumped $4 million in the weekend before March 15, and he lost all five states of March 15. They spent about $4 million running negative ads," said Joel Benenson, speaking to CNN.

The Hillary Clinton campaign's criticisms of the Bernie Sanders campaign come as Clinton continues to score major victories – but Sanders continues to shock pollsters by pulling out important victories in states like Washington and Alaska, casting some doubt on Clinton's ability to win California, which could decide the Democratic primary election once and for all.

This most recent disagreement between the Clinton and Sanders campaigns concerns a debate which is scheduled to occur sometime before the New York Primary – where polls predict Clinton will pull out a sound victory. But according to the Clinton campaign, they will pull out of the debate if Sanders continues to run "negative ads."

"This is a man who said he'd never run a negative ad ever. He's now running them, they're now planning to run more. Let's see the tone of the campaign he wants to run before we get to any other questions," said Benenson this morning, speaking with CNN about the upcoming Democratic primary debate, reports Politico

CNN's anchor pressed back, asking Benenson to elaborate on what kind of risk a debate could pose to the Clinton campaign – even if Sanders stepped up his negative ads.

"There's no risk. She's done very well in the debates. The debates have been very good. But Senator Sanders doesn't get to decide when we debate, particularly when he's running a very negative campaign against us. Let's see if he goes back on the kind of tone he said he was going to set early on. If he does that, then we'll talk about debates," said Benenson on CNN this morning.

The New York primary falls on April 19, and ahead of the primary contest, the Clinton and Sanders campaigns had previously been in discussions regarding a debate ahead of the primary. It could be a boon to Sanders or Clinton, both of whom have strong ties to the Empire State.

A Sanders victory could be important not only due to the delegate math, but New York is Clinton's home state, where she once held a seat as a U.S. senator. If Sanders could pull through against the predictions put forth by most polls, reports the Washington Post, a victory would be a symbolic win against Clinton – much as Trump's victory in Rubio's home state of Florida was earlier this year.

Learning lessons from his come-from-behind victory in Michigan, Bernie Sanders is reportedly planning a similar ground game in New York state – replete with ads featuring "sharpened rhetoric." After winning Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington state, the Sanders campaign is running against the Clinton campaign with a fresh momentum going into the New York primary, where Clinton hopes to shore up support and deliver a decisive victory against the Sanders campaign.

"We'll be the underdog, but being the underdog in New York is not the worst situation in politics, we're going to make a real run for it," said Tad Devine, the Bernie Sanders campaign's chief strategist, speaking with the Washington Post.

[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]