Depending on who you ask, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont was refreshingly honest or hopelessly naive when he flatly admitted he would raise taxes while speaking at a CNN-moderated town hall forum.
The Democratic presidential candidate's Jan. 25 admission roiled social media, spawned hundreds of headlines, and set tongues wagging among political analysts, who say rival Hillary Clinton is likely to seize on the sound byte to fuel negative campaign ads as Iowans get ready to cast their ballots for the Democratic nominee.
“We will raise taxes. Yes we will,” Sanders told Chris Cuomo, CNN's moderator at the Drake University meeting.
Sanders said those tax hikes would fund true universal health care and free college education for all Americans, arguing that he'd save Americans money in the long term because they would not have to pay private health care premiums or rapidly inflating college tuition.
The blunt admission was typical of Sanders, and similar talk was cited by likely voters who say they'll support the Vermont senator in the primary. In a CBS/YouGov poll released on Jan. 24, 91 percent of respondents in Iowa said they trust Sanders to side with voters over the interests of big campaign donors. By contrast, 57 percent said they believe Clinton would side with the people who write checks to her campaign.
Those perceptions were cited among the reasons Sanders has opened up a small lead in Iowa, according to polls, while expanding his considerable lead in New Hampshire. Both states are key in the early nomination process, and could impact campaign donations and voter perception as the nomination process carries through to states like Nevada and South Carolina.
Nationally, Clinton remains the front-runner with 52 percent of the likely vote, according to polls aggregated by RealClear Politics. The same national polls show Sanders with more than 37 percent of the likely vote, while former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley remains in a distant third with less than 2 percent.
At the same town hall meeting, Clinton touted her experience as a senator and secretary of state, casting Sanders as an idealist who has laudable goals that would be tempered by the realities of the presidency.
"You have to have somebody," Clinton said, "who is a proven, proven fighter."