Clinton and Sanders attacked each other over several issues including Wall Street and gun control in a series of exchanges that laid bare the mounting pressures on them.
This seems unlikely to change the dynamics of the race but the tone reflected a contentious turn in the Democratic contest. Clinton and Sanders out-shouted each other while a split crowd roared its approval.
“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 during the debate at the historic Navy Yard in Brooklyn, New York.
Social media was active during two-hour debate. Analyst Brandwatch 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. Clinton had more negative mentions in two of the three previous debates as well.
Sanders will take a quick break from the campaign trail to fly to the Vatican, where he will give a brief speech at a conference on the world economy and social justice. He maintains the trip is not a political appeal for the Catholic vote but a testament to his admiration for Pope Francis.
Meanwhile Republican front-runner Donald Trump spoke at a party fundraiser while his rivals voiced fears of a disaster in the presidential election unless they got the nomination.
Trump has aligned himself with what he said were the “New York values” of hard work and compassion while rival Ted Cruz, a senator from Texas, charged in a debate earlier this year that Trump’s version of New York values were basically Democratic positions.
Both Trump and Clinton have big leads in state polls ahead of the New York contest. Trump needs a win to further his drive toward the 1,237 delegates needed for the nomination, and avoid a contested July convention that could sow Republican chaos.
Clinton needs a New York win to stop a recent streak of seven victories in the last eight contests by Sanders, and expand her commanding lead in pledged delegates to the convention in July.
She leads Sanders by 251 bound delegates to the July Democratic convention, where 2,383 delegates will be needed for the nomination. Her lead balloons to almost 700 with the support of superdelegates, party leaders who are free to back any candidate.
During the debate Sanders conceded that Clinton was qualified to be president but had shown poor judgment by taking money from Wall Street for speeches, voting for the 2003 Iraq invasion and supporting free trade deals.
Clinton responded the charges were also an attack on President Barack Obama, who as a candidate also raised money on Wall Street and utilized Super PACS but still fought for tough regulations on the financial services industry.
When pressed on what Clinton had done to show she was influenced by the money she had raised on Wall Street or her speaking fees, Sanders said she was too busy giving speeches to Goldman Sachs to break up the big banks.
“He cannot come up with any example because there is no example,” Clinton replied. “I stood up to the behavior of the banks when I was a senator.” Sanders responded sarcastically: “Secretary Clinton called them out – oh, they must be really crushed by this.”
Clinton, who has repeatedly attacked Sanders for his vote in Congress for a bill that protected gun manufacturers from being sued over the criminal use of their products, confronted Sanders when he laughed as she discussed her accusations. “It’s not a laughing matter,” she said.