In the Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas last month, the candidates never once mentioned Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), choosing instead to train their sights on Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton. But as Sanders surges in Iowa and New Hampshire, the democratic socialist is being ignored no more: In Thursday night's GOP debate in South Carolina, Sanders came under attack for his left-leaning views.
Fox Business Network's Maria Bartiromo, one of the co-moderators, highlighted Sanders' climb in the Democratic race in a question to Gov. John Kasich of Ohio.
"Hillary Clinton is getting serious competition from Sen. Bernie Sanders," Bartiromo said. "He is now at 41% in the latest CBS/New York Times poll. Vice President Biden sang his praises, saying 'Bernie is speaking to a yearning that is deep and real. He has credibility on it.' So what does it say about our country that a candidate who is the self-avowed socialist, and who doesn't think a 90% tax rate is too high, could be the Democratic nominee?" (Sanders has in fact said he would not raise taxes to the top Eisenhower-era rate of 90%.)
"Well, if that is the case, we're going to win every state," Kasich responded.
But Kasich also sought to tap into the populist sentiment Sanders' inequality-focused campaign has tapped.
"I have to tell you, when wages don't rise, and they haven't for a lot of families for a number of years, it is very, very difficult" for Americans, Kasich said.
In a recitation of GOP boilerplate, Kasich said that the answer to problems like rising debt and stagnant wages lie in "great jobs and lower taxes."
It wasn't the first time Sanders came up in the debate.
"I like everybody on the stage. No one is socialist. No one here is under FBI investigation," Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said earlier in the debate, in a jab at both Sanders and Clinton.
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