NEW YORK, April 14 (UPI) — Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders will take to a debate stage in Brooklyn Thursday, just days ahead of New York’s crucial primary, and with Sanders needing to shake up the race.
Polls have shown Clinton with a double-digit lead in the state where she twice won election to the U.S. Senate. If Clinton takes a lion’s share of the 291 delegates from New York, she could effectively put the race away, reducing Sanders’ chances of overtaking her to all but nil.
Sanders badly needs to change the dynamic of the race and Thursday’s debate may be the last opportunity to do so. Starting Friday, he will have just four more days to campaign in New York before votes are cast on Tuesday.
Both candidates come into Thursday’s debate having endured some stumbles. For Sanders, the problems originated with a disastrous interview with the editorial board of the New York Daily News, where he was pressed on specifics about his signature campaign issue, his call to break up the largest Wall Street banks. Sanders admitted he did not know how it would actually work.
Clinton’s forgettable moment came during an appearance with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, when the two made a racially charged joke that left many scratching their heads. Clinton’s ill-timed foray into comedy also came in a week when her husband, the former president, had an angry run-in on the campaign trail in Pennsylvania with a Black Lives Matter protester. Bill Clinton shouted down the protester while defending his signature 1994 crime bill, then later admitted he could have handled the situation better.
The two candidates have also engaged in a testy back-and-forth over the last two weeks, first over the timing of Thursday’s debate itself. Both candidates and their aides accused the other side of dragging their feet in scheduling the affair.
Once the debate was on the books, the candidates began hammering away at each other’s record. Sanders called Clinton not “qualified” to be president due to her 2002 vote to authorize the war in Iraq and the money Wall Street banks have poured into her super PAC.
Clinton responded by questioning whether Sanders is even a Democrat. For most of his political career, Sanders, who represents liberal Vermont, was a self-described democratic socialist and a political independent who caucused with Democrats in the Senate. He has since changed his party affiliation and is now a registered member of the party.
Thursday’s debate, which is being broadcast on CNN, is slightly different in the rules of engagement, Politico reports. The rules for Thursday’s affair will permit the candidates to address one another more directly and topics for discussion will focus on their race specifically, and less on the issues in general.