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Matthews Dumbfounds DNC Chair

The chair of the Democratic National Committee was left momentarily speechless after being asked an awkward question about her party and socialism on Thursday.

"What is the difference between a Democrat and a socialist?" MSNBC host Chris Matthews asked Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D., Fla.).

"Uh," Wasserman Schultz responded.

"I used to think there was a big difference," Matthews said. "What do you think?"

"The difference between—the real question is what's the difference between being a Democrat and being a Republican," Wasserman Schultz said, attempting to dodge the question.

Matthews didn't let her off easily.

"Yeah but what's the big difference between being a Democrat and being a socialist?" Matthews said. "You're the chairwoman of the Democratic Party. Tell me the difference between you and a socialist."

"The relevant debate that we'll be having over the course of this campaign is what's the difference between being a Democrat and being a Republican," Wasserman Schultz repeated.

Matthews introduced this line of questioning after asking whether the Democratic Party would let Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), an avowed socialist, speak in prime time at the Democratic convention.

Wasserman Schultz affirmed that Sanders' "progressive, populist message" of socialism was welcome at her party's confab, although she would not differentiate between being a Democrat and a socialist.

"Bernie Sanders has been a good Democrat," Wasserman Schultz said.

Sanders, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president, has enjoyed a groundswell of support from Democrats dissatisfied with Hillary Clinton.

Sanders identifies as either a socialist or a democratic socialist. When asked to define his political orientation, he points to places like Scandinavia, saying he wishes to emulate European standards of free higher education, universal health care, and paid sick leave.

Recent polling finds that the Democratic Party's liberal base is more extreme today than it was 15 years ago. This leftward shift could pose a problem for Democrats hoping to win a general election.