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In Dallas, Clinton Continues Offensive Against Sanders

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used a boisterous rally in Dallas Tuesday to offer a thinly veiled critique of Democratic presidential rival Bernie Sanders, suggesting his health-care proposals would undermine efforts to reform the system.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at Mountain View College in Dallas on Nov. 17, 2015.

Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.

DALLAS — Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used a boisterous rally here Tuesday to offer a thinly veiled critique of Democratic presidential rival Bernie Sanders, suggesting his health-care proposals would undermine efforts to reform the system. 

Addressing hundreds at Mountain View College, Clinton did not utter Sanders' name but left little doubt about whom she was referring to when she brought up an opponent who she said wants to dismantle President Barack Obama's signature health-care reform law and give more power to the states.

"I don’t know about you, but I’d be a little concerned about turning it over to Greg Abbott," Clinton said in one of several references to the Texas governor. GOP governors like Abbott, Clinton added, "won’t even expand Medicaid to help working people.”

Clinton's rally came hours after her campaign launched a new offensive against Sanders, saying his health-care plan would lead to a roughly 9 percent tax hike on middle-class families. Clinton echoed the offensive in Dallas, pitching herself as the only candidate on the Democratic debate stage Saturday "who will commit to raising more wages and not more taxes."

“I don’t see how you can be serious about raising working and middle-class families' incomes if you also want to slap new taxes on them, no matter what the taxes will pay for," Clinton said.

The Sanders campaign on Tuesday defended his support for a single-payer health care system in response to Clinton's latest criticism.

"On Medicare for all, the middle class would be far better off because it would save taxpayers money," Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs said in a statement. "More people would get better care at less cost. Didn't she used to be for that? We wouldn't throw money away on costly premiums for profit-making private insurance companies. Pharmaceutical companies would no longer be able to rip off Americans with the most expensive prescription drugs in the world. Didn't she used to be for that?"

The GOP also took issue with Clinton's tax talk.

“Hillary Clinton is wrong if she thinks Americans won’t remember she voted for middle class tax hikes in the Senate, championed her husband’s middle class tax hike that cost him Congress, and continues to defend President Obama’s middle class tax hike called Obamacare," Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Short said in a statement.

Clinton struck a more somber note toward the beginning of her speech, saying the recent Paris attacks serve as a reminder that "America is not just electing a president. We're also electing a commander in chief." She later alluded to the debate that has intensified after the attacks about whether the United States should accept Syrian refugees, an idea that has drawn opposition from some in the GOP field for the White House. 

"Of course we have to have a lot of vigilance and we have to vet people," Clinton said. "But we can’t act as though we’re shutting the doors to people in need without undermining who we are as Americans."

Abbott is among the governors who have said their states will not accept Syrian refugees in the wake of the Paris attacks. Clinton also criticized Abbott for his opposition to expanding Medicaid in Texas and his involvement in what she called an "all-out assault on Planned Parenthood" in the state. 

As she has done during previous visits to the state, Clinton reminded the crowd of her efforts to register voters in South Texas during the 1970s. In Dallas, she said that experience has given her a unique perspective on the plight of people in the country illegally.

About an hour before Clinton's rally was set to start in Dallas, Sanders campaign officials briefed reporters on their efforts to win the March 1 primary in Texas, saying the state is an "integral part of our strategy to win." The officials, speaking on a conference call with Texas media, also did not let go unmentioned Clinton's ramped-up criticism of Sanders on health care and taxes. 

"I’ve been doing this for a long time, and when the prohibitive frontrunner decides to attack what they say is a distant rival, I would suggest that that expresses the fact that they are very concerned at Bernie Sanders’ progress," said Tad Devine, a senior strategist for the Sanders campaign. 

Clinton's rally — which drew 1,500 attendees, according to her campaign — marked Clinton's second campaign event in Texas since she launched her second presidential bid. Her trip to Texas on Tuesday was also set to include two fundraisers: one before her rally in Dallas, and the other later in the day in Austin. The Dallas fundraiser, which cost at least $1,000 to attend, was held at the home of attorney Regina Montoya, one of 13 "Hillblazers" — or top bundlers — in Texas. 

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