Bernie Sanders is trying to kill Hillary Clinton with kindness.
The combative Vermont senator, who’s currently polling in second place (very distant second place, but hey, second place nonetheless) behind Clinton in the contest to be Democrats’ 2016 presidential nominee, rubbed shoulders with her Tuesday on Capitol Hill when she made a quick pit stop there to shmooze with old congressional pals.
After all, just because they are rivals doesn’t mean they can’t have lunch.
The weekly meeting Clinton attended is a closed-door, private luncheon, and usually senators are pretty cagey about details from the conversations they have inside.
Not on Tuesday.
The senators who spoke with The Daily Beast were eager to discuss Clinton’s conversation with them.
Several senators said Sanders joined his fellow liberals to stand and applaud the former secretary of state when she entered the room and indicated that the exchange between the two former colleagues was complimentary.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said Clinton name-checked the Vermont senator early in her remarks, giving him “real praise for carrying the Democratic flag high with a lot of excited supporters, some comment like that that was real positive right at the start of her comments.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said Sanders appeared to appreciate the acknowledgement.
“I think he smiled, that’s the best way of putting it,” Blumenthal said.
The lovefest was sort of mutual.
Sanders left the lunch to hold a media availability with reporters—something Clinton did not do during her Hill jaunt—and promised to run a civil campaign.
“I don’t like negative campaigns, I’ve never run a negative ad in my life,” he said. “I believe the American people are entitled to serious discussion about serious issues.”
That said, Sanders was clear that while the two could be cordial, they also disagree on a lot of key issues for progressives.
He listed trade agreements, the Keystone XL pipeline, the war in Iraq, the Patriot Act, and climate change as places Clinton could use some improvement.
He then dinged Clinton for something reporters complain about all the time: her lack of clarity.
“I don’t believe we should be excavating or transporting some of the dirtiest fuel on this planet,” he said, referring to his opposition to the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. “I think Sec. Clinton has not been clear on her views on that issue.”
And then there is her coziness with Wall Street.
“I believe that we should break up the major financial institutions and certainly go forward with restoring Glass-Steagall financial regulations,” he continued. “To the best of my knowledge, those are ideas that Sec. Clinton does not agree with.”
And he needled the former secretary of state for neglecting to clarify her stance on infrastructure construction, his proposed transaction tax on Wall Street speculation, and a hike of the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
Still, the interactions between Sanders and Clinton in the Capitol on Tuesday indicate the pair may not campaign in the knock-down, drag-out slugfest style that dominated the 2008 Democratic primaries.
“We were all grown-ups, we all like each other, we’re all in the same party,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) of the luncheon. “We all want the same result.”