Hillary Clinton says she isn't sure that Bernie Sanders is a Democrat

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Hillary Clinton has had enough of Bernie Sanders

Until about a year ago, Bernie Sanders was a lifelong independent, a self-described "outsider" who often criticized the constraints of the two-party system. During his run for the Democratic nomination this year, he has conceded that his primary reason for joining the party was to ensure that his message about income inequality would receive broad media attention. Asked recently about whether he intends to lend his funding prowess to down-ballot Democrats, Sanders said, "We'll see." So when Politico's Glenn Thrush asked Clinton whether Sanders is a Democrat on Tuesday, her uncertain reply was understandable.

"Well, I can't answer that," Clinton said.

It makes sense that Clinton isn't sure if Sanders is a Democrat. But she needs to do everything in her power to make sure that he is one. Despite his independent label, Sanders has been a member of the Democratic caucus and a reliable vote for the Democrats throughout his time in Congress. He likens his political philosophy to that of Franklin Roosevelt. Ideologically, there is little distinguishing Sanders from Elizabeth Warren or Sherrod Brown: He should feel comfortable in today's Democratic Party. More critically for Clinton, his supporters should. In Wisconsin last night, Sanders once again notched a double-digit victory on the strength of his support among independents. Clinton needs to keep those left-leaning voters in the Democratic fold.

RELATED: Sanders, Clinton together at a recent Democratic debate

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Hillary Clinton says she isn't sure that Bernie Sanders is a Democrat
MIAMI, FL - MARCH 9: Democratic presidential candidates Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton are seen before the Univision News and Washington Post Democratic Presidential Primary Debate on the Miami Dade College Kendall Campus on March 9, 2016 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - MARCH 09: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during her debate against Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) at the Univision News and Washington Post Democratic Presidential Primary Debate at the Miami Dade College's Kendall Campus on March 9, 2016 in Miami, Florida. Voters in Florida will go to the polls March 15 for the state's primary. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
KENDALL, FL - MARCH 09: Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) speaks during his debate against Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during the Univision News and Washington Post Democratic Presidential Primary Debate at the Miami Dade CollegeÃs Kendall Campus on March 9, 2016 in Kendall, Florida. Voters in Florida will go to the polls March 15 for the state's primary. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, attempts to listen to a question from the audience as Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, walks off the stage during a break at the Univision, Washington Post Democratic presidential debate at Miami-Dade College, Wednesday, March 9, 2016, in Miami, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton speaks at the Univision, Washington Post Democratic presidential debate at Miami-Dade College, Wednesday, March 9, 2016, in Miami, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
A Univision staffer shows what topics are trending from women on Facebook during a break at the Univision, Washington Post Democratic presidential debate at Miami-Dade College, Wednesday, March 9, 2016, in Miami, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, speaks at the Univision, Washington Post Democratic presidential debate at Miami-Dade College, Wednesday, March 9, 2016, in Miami, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton speaks at the Univision, Washington Post Democratic presidential debate at Miami-Dade College, Wednesday, March 9, 2016, in Miami, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
MIAMI, FL - MARCH 9: General view at the Univision News and Washington Post Democratic Presidential Primary Debate on the Miami Dade College Kendall Campus on March 9, 2016 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images)
Members of the audience applaud during the Univision, Washington Post Democratic presidential debate at Miami-Dade College, Wednesday, March 9, 2016, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, speaks at the Univision, Washington Post Democratic presidential debate at Miami-Dade College, Wednesday, March 9, 2016, in Miami, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton speaks, as Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, listens, during the the Univision, Washington Post Democratic presidential debate at Miami-Dade College, Wednesday, March 9, 2016, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton speaks at the Univision, Washington Post Democratic presidential debate at Miami-Dade College, Wednesday, March 9, 2016, in Miami, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks during the democratic presidential debate with Hillary Clinton in Miami on March 9, 2016. / AFP / Gaston De Cardenas (Photo credit should read GASTON DE CARDENAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton (R) and Bernie Sanders stand during a National Anthem before the democratic presidential debate in Miami on March 9, 2016. / AFP / Gaston De Cardenas (Photo credit should read GASTON DE CARDENAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, shakes hands before the start of the Univision, Washington Post Democratic presidential debate at Miami-Dade College, Wednesday, March 9, 2016, in Miami, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
MIAMI, FL - MARCH 09: Democratic presidential candidates Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton shake hands before the Univision News and Washington Post Democratic Presidential Primary Debate on the Miami Dade Colleges Kendall Campus on March 9, 2016 in Miami, Florida. Voters in Florida will go to the polls March 15th for the state's primary. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - MARCH 09: Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton debate during the Univision News and Washington Post Democratic Presidential Primary Debate at the Miami Dade College's Kendall Campus on March 9, 2016 in Miami, Florida. Voters in Florida will go to the polls March 15th for the state's primary. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - MARCH 09: Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton debate during the Univision News and Washington Post Democratic Presidential Primary Debate at the Miami Dade College's Kendall Campus on March 9, 2016 in Miami, Florida. Voters in Florida will go to the polls March 15th for the state's primary. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, speaks at the Univision, Washington Post Democratic presidential debate at Miami-Dade College, Wednesday, March 9, 2016, in Miami, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton speaks at the Univision, Washington Post Democratic presidential debate at Miami-Dade College, Wednesday, March 9, 2016, in Miami, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt and Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton interrupt each other during the Univision, Washington Post Democratic presidential debate at Miami-Dade College, Wednesday, March 9, 2016, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
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On MSNBC's Morning Joe Wednesday, Clinton may not have advanced that goal. Asked whether she believes Sanders is qualified for the presidency, Clinton declined to say that he is. The Vermont senator has been widely criticized this week for some clumsy answers in an interview he gave to the New York Daily News editorial board. Specifically, when asked to describe the mechanics of his plan to break up the big banks -- one of his campaign's signature issues -- Sanders appeared ignorant and/or uncertain in the eyes of many pundits.

Daily News: Okay. Well, let's assume that you're correct on that point. How do you go about doing it?

Sanders: How you go about doing it is having legislation passed, or giving the authority to the secretary of treasury to determine, under Dodd-Frank, that these banks are a danger to the economy over the problem of too-big-to-fail.

Daily News: But do you think that the Fed, now, has that authority?

Sanders: Well, I don't know if the Fed has it. But I think the administration can have it.

Daily News: How? How does a President turn to JPMorgan Chase, or have the Treasury turn to any of those banks and say, "Now you must do X, Y and Z?"

Sanders: Well, you do have authority under the Dodd-Frank legislation to do that, make that determination.

Daily News: You do, just by Federal Reserve fiat, you do?

Sanders: Yeah. Well, I believe you do.

"The core of his campaign has been 'break up the banks,'" Clinton told MSNBC Wednesday morning. "And it didn't seem, in reading his answers, that he understood exactly how that would work under Dodd-Frank, exactly who would be responsible, what the criteria were. And so that means you can't really help people, if you don't really know how to do what you are campaigning, to say that you want to do."

RELATED: Sanders in New Hampshire

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Hillary Clinton says she isn't sure that Bernie Sanders is a Democrat
CONCORD, NH - FEBRUARY 09: Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) walks through downtown Concord on election day on February 9, 2016 in Concord, New Hampshire. Sanders, who is expected to win over Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, greeted voters before taking a short walk where he was mobbed by members of the media. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
CONCORD, NH - FEBRUARY 09: A supporter of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders waits for his arrival into downtown Concord on Primary Day on February 9, 2016 in Concord, New Hampshire. Sanders, who is expected to win over Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, greeted voters before taking a short walk where he was mobbed by members of the media. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Supporters of US Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders arrive for primary night rally in Concord, New Hampshire, on February 9, 2016. / AFP / Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
CONCORD, NH - FEBRUARY 09: A Bernie Sanders supporter waits for the Democratic presidential candidate's New Hampshire Primary Night watch party to begin February 9, 2016 in Concord, New Hampshire. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Supporters of US Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders cheer watching the result on television as they arrive for primary night rally in Concord, New Hampshire, on February 9, 2016. / AFP / Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
A supporter of US Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders arrives for primary night rally in Concord, New Hampshire, on February 9, 2016. / AFP / JEWEL SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
CONCORD, NH - FEBRUARY 09: People cheer polling results at a primary-night watch party for Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) on February 9, 2016 in Concord, New Hampshire. Sanders was projected Democratic winner shortly after the polls closed. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
CONCORD, NH - FEBRUARY 09: People cheer polling results at a primary-night watch party for Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) on February 9, 2016 in Concord, New Hampshire. Sanders was projected Democratic winner shortly after the polls closed. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
CONCORD, NH - FEBRUARY 09: Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) speaks onstage after the New Hampshire primary February 9, 2016 in Concord, New Hampshire. Sanders was projected Democratic winner shortly after the polls closed. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
CONCORD, NH - FEBRUARY 09: Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and his wife Jane O'Meara (L) greets supporters after winning the New Hampshire Democratic Primary February 9, 2016 in Concord, New Hampshire. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
CONCORD, NH - FEBRUARY 09: Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders greets supporters after winning the New Hampshire Democratic Primary February 9, 2016 in Concord, New Hampshire. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
CONCORD, NH - FEBRUARY 09: Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) is kissed on the cheek by his wife Jane O'Meara Sanders after winning the New Hampshire primary February 9, 2016 in Concord, New Hampshire. Sanders defeated Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in the first in the nation primary. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
CONCORD, NH - FEBRUARY 09: A Bernie Sanders supporter waits for the Democratic presidential candidate's New Hampshire Primary Night watch party to begin February 9, 2016 in Concord, New Hampshire. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
CONCORD, NH - FEBRUARY 09: Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) addresses supporters after winning the New Hampshire Democratic Primary February 9, 2016 in Concord, New Hampshire. Sanders defeated Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in the first-in-the-nation primary. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
CONCORD, NH - FEBRUARY 09: Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) supporters watch election returns of the Democratic New Hampshire primary at a primary night watch party February 9, 2016 in Concord, New Hampshire. Sanders won the first-in-the-nation primary, defeating rival Hillary Clinton. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, smiles while speaking during a primary watch party at Concord High School in Concord, New Hampshire, U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. Sanders defeated Hillary Clinton in the New Hampshire Democratic Primary, while real estate mogul Donald Trump was projected to win in the crowded Republican field with the final finishing order yet to be settled. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, speaks during a primary watch party at Concord High School in Concord, New Hampshire, U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. Sanders defeated Hillary Clinton in the New Hampshire Democratic Primary, while real estate mogul Donald Trump was projected to win in the crowded Republican field with the final finishing order yet to be settled. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE-FEBRUARY 9 : Bernie Sanders is thrilled as he greets his supporters at Concord HS after winning NH. (Photo by Lucian Perkins /for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE-FEBRUARY 9 : Bernie Sanders supporters yell in excitement as they spot him coming to visit the Ward Five Polling Place at the Green Street Community Center in Concord, New Hampshire. (Photo by Lucian Perkins /for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
A supporter of US Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders takes pictures as she arrives for primary night rally in Concord, New Hampshire, on February 9, 2016. / AFP / JEWEL SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
US Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks during the primary night rally in Concord, New Hampshire, on February 9, 2016. Self-described democratic socialist Bernie Sanders and political novice Donald Trump won New Hampshire's presidential primaries Tuesday, US media projected, turning the American political establishment on its head early in the long nominations battle. / AFP / Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Volunteer Tyrell Cooper waits for the arrival of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., ahead of an primary night watch party at Concord High School, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a primary night rally at Concord High School, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
The Rev. Al Sharpton walks with Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and his wife Jane as they arrive for a breakfast meeting at Sylvia's Restaurant, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, in the Harlem neighborhood of New York. Sanders defeated former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday in the New Hampshire primary. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
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Asked if Sanders's lack of understanding is disqualifying, Clinton said, "Well, I think he hadn't done his homework. And he'd been talking for more than a year about doing things that he obviously hadn't really studied or understood."

There's little question that Clinton has proven herself more eloquent on a broad range of policy areas than her rival. But the Roosevelt Institute's Mike Konczal, who has criticized Sanders's Wall Street reform plan for its inattention to shadow banking, argues that the senator's answers in the Daily News interview were perfectly sound and in keeping with the detailed plan he articulated earlier in the campaign.

Konczal says Sanders is basically correct in asserting that his administration would have the authority to declare that a given bank should be broken up. The Dodd-Frank reform gives the Financial Stability Oversight Council, a body of regulators chaired by the Treasury secretary, the power to declare large firms to be systemic risks in need of downsizing. And while Sanders's simultaneous references to breaking up the banks through legislation, through the order of the Treasury secretary, and through the Federal Reserve may sound contradictory, they reflect his three-pronged plan for financial reform, which Konczal summarizes as follows:

1. Pass a law putting some sort of cap on the size of the balance sheet of financial companies, usually non-deposit liabilities. Caps, such as Senator Brown's SAFE Banking Act, are generally proposed around 2 or 3 percent of GDP.

2. Have the council of regulators known as the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC), on which the Treasury Secretary serves as chair, declare the largest firms to be too risky and must be broken up (Section 121).

3. Have the Federal Reserve, along with the FDIC, determine that the "living wills" of the biggest banks, which are plans on how they can fail without bringing down the economy, are not credible, and thus must be broken up (Section 165d).

Sanders hasn't shown much talent for reciting the details of policy extemporaneously. That's certainly a weakness for a politician, and one that can inspire reasonable doubts about the precision of his policy thinking. (His remarks on drones and trade in the Daily News interview buoy such doubts.) But it isn't true that Sanders has failed to articulate a plan to do what he says he will to those big banks.

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