Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris both gave terribly damaging answers to the same question asked of them Monday evening.
“Sen. Sanders, you have said that you believe that people with felony records should be allowed to vote while in prison,” began Harvard University student Anne Carlstein at a CNN Town Hall event. “Does this mean you’d support enfranchising people like the Boston Marathon bomber, a convicted terrorist and murderer?”
“Do you think those convicted of sexual assault should have the opportunity to vote for politicians who could have a direct impact on women’s rights?” she also asked.
Sanders danced around the question at the Manchester, New Hampshire event for a bit before finally answering clearly, “I think the right to vote is inherent to our democracy. Yes, even for terrible people.”
Liberal CNN host Chris Cuomo didn’t like that answer at all and asked Sanders on stage, “You’re sure about that?”
“This is what I believe,” the candidate confirmed.
Then it was Harris’ turn, and she wasn’t willing to give nearly as definite answer as Sanders. That ended up hurting her, too.
Asked if she agreed with Sanders that “felons being able to vote while in prison,” including the Boston Bomber and convicted sexual assaulters, the former prosecutor danced around the question, too, but finally said, “I think we should have that conversation.”
Liberal CNN host Don Lemon shrugged and said, “OK, alright. Thank you.”
He immediately dove into a commercial break, but other CNN commentators weren’t going to let Harris get off that easily.
Anchor Brooke Baldwin mocked Harris’ reply as one of her “go-to” answers and played a humiliating montage of video clips of the Democratic candidate using the “I think we should have that conversation” line repeatedly.
“On a debate stage, you have to respond in real-time,” Baldwin chided. “How many more times can a default answer...be sufficient?”
“That is her graceful dodge,” CNN national political reporter Maeve Reston explained. “She does this all the time on the campaign trail when voters asked her questions where she’s not quite sure what position she’s going to stake out yet.”
“She wants to convey the idea that she might be on your side.”
Reston added that using that approach again and again “could be a big problem for her doing down the line. I don’t think voters like that kind of caution. They want someone to really lay out at least kind of what they’re thinking.”