Hillary Clinton has one goal in Thursday’s Democratic presidential debate: Stop Bernie Sanders.
The rivals will meet at 9 p.m. ET in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for the PBS “NewsHour” debate being simulcast on CNN. It will be their first clash since Sanders delivered a 20-point drubbing to Clinton in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, which followed Clinton’s win by the narrowest of margins in the Iowa caucuses.
The debate takes place ahead of the Nevada Democratic caucuses on February 20 and the South Carolina Democratic primary the following Saturday. Both candidates will likely make appeals to Latino and African-American voters that will be decisive in those states.
Clinton got a huge boost ahead of the debate when she won the endorsement of the political arm of the Congressional Black Caucus.
“One of the individuals that has been with us time and time again has been Hillary Clinton,” New York Rep. Gregory Meeks, chair of the CBC Political Action Committee, told CNN’s Carol Costello on “Newsroom.”
“She has been, her whole career, an individual that has been fighting for issues that are important to the African-American community,” Meeks said.
Lewis doesn’t recollect Sanders in ’60s
Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, meanwhile, told reporters that he didn’t recall Sanders’ involvement with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
“I never saw him. I never met him,” said Lewis, a veteran of the civil rights movement. “I was chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee for three years, from 1963 to 1966. I was involved with the sit-ins, the Freedom Rides, the March on Washington, the march from Selma to Montgomery and directed to voter education project for six years. But I met Hillary Clinton. I met President Clinton.”
Clinton is expected to argue at the debate that Sanders is not ready to be commander in chief and hasn’t thought deeply about foreign policy issues.
But she must be careful not to further alienate Sanders supporters, including young voters. Younger female voters, in particular, have turned to Sanders’ campaign recently, raising questions about Clinton’s strength among base Democratic constituencies.
It’s all about the (political) base
There’s no secret about how Sanders will approach the debate.
He will tap into the anger and frustration animating the Democratic grass-roots by driving home his indictment of an economy that he sees as stacked in favor of the wealthy against the rest of Americans and a political system he says is corrupted by vast financial donations and super PACs.
“What the American people understand is that our great country was based on a simple principal, and that principle is fairness,” Sanders said in his New Hampshire victory speech.
“Let me be very clear, it is not fair when we have more income and wealth inequality today than almost any major country on Earth. And, when the top one-tenth of 1% now owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90%, that’s not fair.”
Sanders will likely try to parry Clinton’s attacks on foreign policy by reiterating that, unlike the former New York senator, he voted against authorizing the Iraq War in 2002. He is also under pressure to court minority voters because his big challenge running into Nevada and South Carolina is to prove he can expand his political base.