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Clinton, Sanders spar in uproarious debate

As both battled over guns, minimum wage and Israel, Clinton leads Sanders by 251 bound delegates to the July nominating convention

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United States Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton and rival Bernie Sanders assailed each other on Thursday over their judgment and experience before a rowdy crowd in a high-volume debate five days before a crucial New York nominating contest for the US presidential election.

In their fifth one-on-one debate, Clinton and Sanders showed the mounting pressure of their marathon White House race with a series of heated exchanges on Wall Street, guns and other issues that featured the two of them shouting in unison while an evenly split crowd roared its support.

“If you’re both screaming at each other, the viewers won’t be able to hear either of you,” moderator Wolf Blitzer of CNN warned at one point at the debate in the New York borough of Brooklyn.

The last nine opinion polls taken in New York, a state where Sanders was born and Clinton served eight years as a US senator, show her holding a double-digit advantage over him ahead of Tuesday’s New York vote, the next nominating contest on the road to a July national convention and the Nov. 8 election.

As the two-hour debate ended, the Brandwatch company which analyzes social-media sentiment said Sanders had more than 173,000 mentions on Twitter, 55 percent of them positive, while Clinton had more than 191,000 mentions, 54 percent of them negative.

Sanders, who had questioned the former secretary of state’s qualifications to be president, conceded she was qualified but said she had shown poor judgment by taking money from Wall Street for speeches she gave, by voting as a US senator to back the 2003 Iraq invasion and by supporting free trade deals.

“Does Secretary Clinton have the intelligence, the experience to be president? Of course she does but I do question her judgment,” Sanders said at the debate in the New York borough of Brooklyn.

“I question her judgment which voted for the war in Iraq, the worst foreign policy blunder in the history of this country,” he said. “I question her judgment about running Super PACS that are collecting tens of millions of dollars from special interests ... I don’t believe that is the kind of judgment we need.”

Battle over Israel

The two candidates also battled over support for Israel, with Sanders calling himself “100 percent pro-Israel” but adding that Middle East peace required treating “the Palestinian people with respect and dignity.”

He questioned what he said was Clinton’s too-firm commitment to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“There comes a time if we are going to pursue justice and peace that we are going to have to say that Netanyahu is not right all of the time,” Sanders said.

Clinton responded neutrally. “Nobody is saying that any individual leader is always right but it is a difficult position,” she said.

“Describing the problem is a lot easier than trying to solve it,” Clinton said, touting her experience as secretary of state in trying to settle the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.