Bernie Sanders Hit By Democratic Rival For Being An Independent

"I choose to be a Democrat, not just in presidential years, but in every year of my life.”

While campaigning at the Iowa State Fair on Thursday, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) criticized presidential rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for being an independent.

“I believe that the Democratic party has a tradition of offering pragmatic solutions to the challenges we face as a country. I am a lifelong Democrat, and I believe very deeply in the principles of our party,” he said. “That’s why I choose to be a Democrat, not just in presidential years, but in every year of my life.”

O’Malley was responding to a question at an audience Q&A regarding whether Sanders being a self-described democratic socialist was a “problem” for the Democrats.

“I don’t think it’s a problem for the Democratic party, but it might be a problem, long term, for Sen. Sanders,” he said.

When pressed on why specifically he thinks it’s a problem, he dodged the question.

“I don’t know, I’m just a presidential candidate on a soapbox,” O’Malley said. “Don’t ask me pundit questions.”

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Sanders, who has emerged as the progressive alternative to Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton, proudly calls himself a democratic socialist. However, he caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate and is running for the Democratic presidential nomination.

When Sanders entered the race, he was seen as a long shot and a fringe candidate due to his socialist views. However, his progressive policy agenda includes proposals that resonate with many voters, such as a single-payer health care system, a carbon tax and universal pre-kindergarten. A recent Gallup poll found that nearly half of Americans and 59 percent of Democrats would vote for a socialist candidate.

Sanders has now become a potential challenger to Clinton on the left, a place that O’Malley had hoped to fill.

O’Malley is in a distant third behind Clinton and Sanders in most national polls but hopes to gain ground through an aggressive grassroots campaign in Iowa and other early primary states. While in Iowa on Thursday, O’Malley unveiled a policy agenda called “15 Goals to Rebuild the American Dream.” He also touted his record as governor of Maryland and his relative youth compared to Clinton and Sanders as distinguishing factors in the race.

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“Most of my time has been spent as an executive, accomplishing progressive things, not talking about them, not debating them. Those things are important, but I’ve gotten things done,” he said.

“Usually in the Democratic Party, what happens in Iowa is, after you get a chance to meet everybody, usually -- you usually winnow down the field. In a Democratic party that has a pull toward the future, that ends up being a choice between the inevitable frontrunner and the voice of a new generation that most of the country has not heard of.”

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