Brian Fallon, the national press secretary for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, refused on Wednesday to call Clinton a liberal, opting instead for the term "progressive," and would not say if the Democratic frontrunner thinks being a socialist disqualifies a candidate from being president.
Appearing on the Bloomberg program With All Due Respect, Fallon was asked if Clinton would call herself a liberal.
"Senator [Bernie] Sanders [I., Vt] says he is a progressive. Hillary Clinton says she is a progressive who gets things done. Would Hillary Clinton call herself a liberal?" co-host John Heilemann asked Fallon.
"I think in the last few years you've seen Democrats really rally around the term progressive to define their commitment to working class -" Fallon replied before being cut off by Heilemann, who then asked what the difference is between being a progressive and being a liberal.
"I'm not sure, but I think Republicans have tried to turn liberal into a dirty word," Fallon said. "But I think progressive is a term that Democrats pretty proudly wear."
Heilemann pushed him on the question, saying the word "progressive" does not mean much because it is used in so many different ways, before asking again if Clinton is a liberal or not.
"I think that she is a progressive who gets results," Fallon said in response. "I think that you are asking me because you want the RNC [Republican National Committee] to clip this."
Heilemann said that he believes Sanders would both "happily call himself a liberal" and describe the policies he wants to advance as liberal. He then repeated his question to Fallon of whether Clinton would call herself a liberal like Sanders.
"Well, we like the term progressive," Fallon said one final time, causing Heilemann to drop the question.
The campaign spokesman gave another ambiguous response later in the interview when Heilemann asked him if Clinton thinks being a socialist disqualifies someone from being president.
The question was in reference to Sanders, who is a self-declared socialist and Clinton's only opponent in the Democratic presidential primary.
"A lot of Democrats do," Fallon said in response.
"Does Hillary Clinton?" Heilemann asked again.
"We'll see," Fallon said with a slight smile. He then repeated himself before adding,"Republicans are certainly rooting for him [Sanders], so they must be wise to something."
Heilemann then complimented Fallon for giving "really an awesome non-answer."
Sanders has criticized Clinton on the campaign trail for often changing her policy positions and how she defines herself politically to the public when it is convenient for her. He points to how Clinton is calling herself a progressive now but has referred to herself as a moderate in the recent past, which he argues is an indication that she does not share the values of the Democratic base.
Sanders has especially targeted Clinton's connections to Wall Street.
The former secretary of state has accumulated millions of dollars in speaking fees from financial firms, many of which have links to Wall Street, and Sanders has said a progressive would not take that much money from the financial industry and share corporate interests.
Sanders tried to draw this contrast between himself and Clinton in New Hampshire on Wednesday as the state's Feb. 9 primary is fast approaching.
After Sanders overcame a huge deficit in the polls to virtually tie Clinton (who officially won) in the Iowa caucuses Monday night, he maintains a large lead in New Hampshire and is expected to win there.
Clinton campaign officials have said they will work hard in New Hampshire to catch up to Sanders, but Fallon downplayed expectations for Clinton during the interview on Wednesday.
"I've seen some of the polls that have us down by 30," Fallon said. "I think that we have a chance to eat into that margin and have a good showing."
He explained that Sanders is widely known and liked in New Hampshire because it borders Vermont so the voters are used to him.
Both Heilemann and his co-host Mark Halperin pointed out that Clinton has been known in New Hampshire for years and won the primary there in 2008.
Fallon also said Clinton has been the subject of more attack ads from Republicans campaigning in New Hampshire than Sanders, which he argued is contributing to her trailing in the polls.
"They're doing that in South Carolina and other states, too," Halperin said in response.
Clinton is leading Sanders in South Carolina by a wide margin.
Fallon described how Sanders has maintained a consistent lead in New Hampshire, implying that it would be difficult to overcome the deficit.
He added that it was critical for Sanders to win both Iowa and New Hampshire, and it does not bode well for the Vermont Senator to win the caucus states in March.
Sanders has said his campaign has all the momentum and enthusiasm now and will take that energy to the remaining states.