US Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton has declined to debate rival Bernie Sanders, ahead of the state’s delegate-rich June 7 primary.
“We have declined Fox News’ invitation to participate in a debate in California,” Clinton’s top campaign spokeswoman said in a statement on Monday. “As we have said previously, we plan to compete hard in the remaining primary states, particularly California, while turning out attention to the threat a Donald Trump presidency poses.”
“We believe that Hillary Clinton’s time is best spent campaigning and meeting directly with voters across California and preparing for a general election campaign that will ensure the White House remains in Democratic hands,” Clinton’s communications director, Jennifer Palmieri said continued.
The senator from Vermont had been pushing the former secretary of state to debate before the primary in California, which offers 475 pledged Democratic delegates.
Hours later, speaking at a rally in Santa Monica, California, Sanders blasted Clinton for rejecting the debate, saying it’s “insulting” to California voters.
“I was disturbed, but not surprised that Secretary Clinton has backed out of the debate,” Sanders said.
“I think it’s a little bit insulting to the people of California — our largest state — that she is not prepared to have a discussion with me about how she will help the Californians address the major crises that we face,” he added.
In an interview on Sunday, Clinton declared that she will be the nominee of the Democratic Party in the November election, but did not directly call on Sanders to drop out.
“I think that Sen. Sanders has every right to finish off his campaign however he chooses,” Clinton said.
“I have far more pledged delegates. It was much closer between me and Sen. Obama. And I am going to be the nominee,” Clinton added. “And I want to spend a lot of my time, as you’ve seen me do, really taking on Trump.”
Sanders said on Sunday one of the reasons he is staying in the race for the White House is because he does not want Americans to vote “for the lesser of two evils,” in an apparent reference to Clinton.
According to the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released early Sunday, a majority of Americans view both Clinton and Trump unfavorably. Fifty-eight percent of voters dislike Trump, while 54 percent have a negative opinion of Clinton, the poll found.
Forty-seven percent of voters said they would consider a third-party candidate if Clinton and Trump face off as the Democratic and Republican nominees in November, according to the survey.
Sanders, 74, has long argued that although he is losing the primary presidential race to Clinton, Democratic Party officials should consider how well he does with independents as one of the reasons he is better prepared to compete against Trump in the general election.