After what has been the most contentious week of the Democratic primary, candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are set to square off during CNN’s Thursday night debate. Both candidates are vying for a pivotal victory in New York’s April 19 primary, as Clinton is looking to expand her delegate lead and Sanders is trying to prove that he still has a fighting chance to become the Democratic nominee.
Clinton heads into the Thursday’s debate with a 13.3 point lead in the New York polls, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average, and 251 more pledged delegates than Sanders. But, Sanders has won eight out of the last nine Democratic contests and has not signaled that he’s getting out of this race any time soon.
While Sanders and Clinton aim their arguments at New York voters on Thursday night, here are three things to look out for at the Brooklyn debate:
Will the fireworks continue?
Compared to the Republican primary, the Democratic race has been pretty tame until this past week. No, neither candidate argued about the size of their genitalia or engaged in a spat over each other’s spouses, but Sanders and Clinton muddied themselves when discussing who is qualified to be president.
Although Clinton never directly called Sanders “unqualified”, Sanders pounced on her indirect attack and stated during a rally last week that he believed Clinton was unqualified to be president. Sanders and his campaign have since walked back those comments – saying that Clinton is qualified but her decision making is questionable – but the specter of his remarks loom large over the Brooklyn debate.
The Democratic debates have been cordial up to this point but the candidates’ latest spar sets up a potentially volatile debate on Thursday night. Both candidates may opt to take the high road. Then again, New York is not particularly known for being a warm and fuzzy atmosphere.
How will Sanders’ interview with the Daily News editorial board factor into the debate?
Sanders caught some flak from the national media after his interview with the editorial board of The Daily News. Sanders seemed to not have a complete grasp of all of the questions fired his way, particularly with questions over how he would break up the big banks and handle Israel negotiations (although some have pointed out that some of the questions were misguided).
Regardless, The Daily News has since interviewed Clinton and endorsed her ahead of the April 19 New York primary. Clinton will have the opportunity to exploit some of Sanders’ questionable answers from his interview, like his inability to hold gun manufacturers accountable in wake of mass shootings or the tactics he would use when negotiating a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine.
Sanders has sharpened his answers in recent days, but Clinton has the chance to put those questions in the spotlight and drive a wedge between Sanders and Democratic voters.
Who’s turf will this debate be played on?
There has been one overriding theme over the course of this Democratic primary: Sanders is at his best when he’s focused on income inequality and campaign finance reform, and Clinton is at her best when she’s talking about foreign policy and gun control. Each candidate flounders when they wade into the other’s territory.
Sanders has not had a counter-punch to Clinton’s foreign policy expertise other than “she voted for the Iraq War and I didn’t.” If he wants to avoid a lackluster performance during key parts of the debate, Sanders will need to articulate a comprehensive foreign policy doctrine and highlight areas where he and Clinton disagree.
Likewise, Clinton is out of her element whenever the debate shifts to campaign finance reform and income inequality. Clinton usually articulates how she want’s to overturn Citizens United and combat a growing income gap, but Sanders has been able to parry her arguments by stressing the fact that he does not have a Super PAC, does not take money from Wall Street and that he has been consistent on this issue much longer than Clinton.
Each candidate needs to fight this debate on their turf in order to come out on top after Thursday night’s debate is finished.