Hillary Clinton goes one-on-one with a resurgent Bernie Sanders Wednesday night in a debate clash that comes at a pivotal moment in the Democratic battle for the White House.
Sanders’ upset win over the Democratic front-runner in Michigan on Tuesday put a swift end to expectations that Clinton could quickly wrap up their duel for the party’s nomination and turn her attention to Republicans.
The rivals will meet in a Univision/Washington Post debate in Miami simulcast by CNN at a time when new vigor is lifting the Sanders campaign, and as familiar nagging doubts surround the former secretary of state.
Their showdown comes less than a week before crucial Democratic primaries in big, delegate-heavy states including Florida, Ohio, Illinois and North Carolina. Before Tuesday, Clinton was expected to cruise through those races and put decisive distance between herself and the Vermont senator in the delegate race.
But Sanders’ narrow win in Michigan, while it did not cut his overall delegate deficit to Clinton on a night when she won Mississippi, raised the question of whether she is struggling to connect with blue collar voters attracted by his populist economic message. That question could be a pertinent one in Ohio, Illinois and other Midwestern industrial states voting in the weeks to come.
At the very least, Sanders likely extended the Democratic contest for weeks with his show of strength in the Midwest in a way that will force Clinton to confront his critique over her ties to Wall Street, her past support for free trade deals opposed by the Democratic base and what he says is a corrupt economy and political system weighted against the middle and working classes.
The debate in Miami follows a testy face off between the rivals in Flint, Michigan, at a CNN debate on Sunday night. That showdown was punctuated by impatient complaints by Sanders that Clinton was talking over him, so the tone of Wednesday’s debate will be closely watched.
Since the debate will be broadcast by Univision, the candidates can expecting questions on issues that are particularly important to the Latino community, including immigration reform.
Clinton had a 2-1 lead over Sanders in a Washington Post/Univision Poll last month among Latino voters. And in the Texas primary last week, 71% of Latino voters voted for Clinton, who has vowed to aggressively push immigration reform in her first term as President and to extend President Barack Obama’s executive orders shielding some undocumented migrants from deportation.
Sanders has said he would take a similar stance on the executive orders and backs comprehensive immigration reform and a path towards citizenship.
At a Democratic debate in February on MSNBC however, Clinton hammered Sanders for opposing a bipartisan comprehensive effort to reform the immigration system during the George W. Bush administration.
“I don’t think it was progressive to vote against Ted Kennedy’s immigration reform,” she said.
Sanders said he voted against the bill because it included big increases in a guest worker program that he says undercuts American workers by importing cheap labor and leaves those who come into the country at the mercy of unscrupulous employers.