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After De-Escalation, the Debate Over Clinton's Qualifications Is Revived

After two days of sticking to his statement, Sanders finally backtracked Friday morning, saying on NBC News' Today Show that “of course” she is.
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The Democratic presidential campaigns have spent the last two days immersed in an argument over who is (or is not) "qualified" to be president. The fireworks began on Wednesday when Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders very pointedly ticked off a list of reasons why front-runner Hillary Clinton is "not qualified" to sit in the Oval Office -- from her initial support of the Iraq War to her campaign contributors.

That assertion astonished and angered Clinton supporters who point to the candidate's resume of four years as Secretary of State, eight years as a senator from New York as well as eight years as first lady.

After two days of sticking to his statement, Sanders tamped down the discussion Friday morning, saying on NBC News' Today Show that “of course” she is qualified.

But getting to "of course" was a long one. He has made himself available to the press numerous times over the past 48 hours and his evolution on his statement has been stark.

Here’s a timeline:

Wednesday: The beginning. The Washington Post ran a story titled “Clinton question whether Sanders is qualified to be president” based on an interview Clinton did on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, where she said, "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," which she said "does raise a lot of questions."

Clinton never specifically said Sanders was not qualified but the Washington Post framed her position as that.

Wednesday evening: Sanders responds. At a rally in Philadelphia, Sanders said Clinton is the one not qualified to be president.

“I don't believe that she is qualified if she is, if she is, through her super PAC, taking tens of millions of dollars in special interest funds. I don't think that you are qualified if you get 15 million dollars from Wall Street through your super PAC…,” he told the crowd.

Thursday: Clinton responded to Sanders on the Today Show. She wouldn't say if Sanders was qualified, but said: "I will take Bernie Sanders over Donald Trump or Ted Cruz any time."

Thursday: Sanders doubles down, sticking to his statement during a news conference.

"Because the Washington Post started a headline that said quote 'Clinton questions whether Sanders is qualified to be president.' That is what was thrown at me. The other thing, is I believe the Clinton campaign told CNN, and I quote, that their strategy as we go into New York and Pennsylvania, I guess, 'Disqualify him, defeat him, and unify the party later.'"

Thursday: President Bill Clinton jumps to her defense.

“It’s so silly, it doesn’t deserve a question. About what he said? She’s the most qualified person to run for president since I’ve been voting. More that I was in ’92," he told NBC News in Northwest Philadelphia.

Thursday Night: Sanders on CBS Evening News said he'd support Clinton but won't say if she's "qualified."

“And if Secretary Clinton is the nominee, I will certainly support her.”

And when asked if she is qualified, he dodges. “She has years of experience. She is extremely intelligent.”

Later on Thursday night: On MSNBC's Racel Maddow, Sanders' wife, Jane Sanders, said her husband would no longer say that Clinton is unqualified, and acknowledged that it was probably a mistake.

"Bernie has moved on. He has said, 'Okay, let’s not use the word ‘unqualified’, let’s use the word ‘contrast,'" she said.

Friday morning: On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Sanders refused to say if Clinton is qualified. Instead he said he is going to “fight back” when he believes Clinton is attacking him, a defense he hatched on Thursday.

Moments later Friday Morning: Then just moments later on NBC’s The Today Show, Sanders said, “of course” she’s qualified.

"On her worst day, she would be an infinitely better president than either of the Republican candidates,” he said.

Friday early afternoon: Bill Clinton went there. He told MSNBC on that Sanders' remarks show sexism after being asked if she would have been called unqualified if she were a man.

“Well, of course it wouldn’t. And I think he walked it back today, didn’t he?"

Friday mid-afternoon: After Sanders said she IS qualified, Clinton brought it up at a rally in New York.

"You may have heard Senator Sanders say I’m unqualified to be president. Seriously, I’ve been called a lot of things over the years but unqualified has not been one of them," she said. "He finally acknowledged that he doesn't really believe that. This is all pretty silly. The question in this election should be who can actually get things done."

To be continued...