Clinton and Sanders Prepare to Debate Labels in New Hampshire

Democratic Presidential Candidates Hold First Debate In Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 13: Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (L) and Hillary Clinton take part in a presidential debate sponsored by CNN and Facebook at Wynn Las Vegas on October 13, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Five Democratic presidential candidates are participating in the party's first presidential debate. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Photograph by Joe Raedle—Getty Images

Moderate. Democratic socialist. Independent. Democrat. Liberal. Progressive. Progressive who likes to get things done.

Those are all labels the two Democratic presidential candidates have used to describe themselves in recent months, and the debate over which candidate is what will likely be on full display on Thursday night.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders are set to meet on a debate stage in New Hampshire amid days of wrangling over who is a “progressive” or a “moderate,” with Sanders expressing doubt days on Tuesday that Clinton is a true progressive. Clinton argued back on Wednesday night at a CNN town hall that she was “somewhat amused” that Sanders “set himself up to be the gatekeeper on who is the progressive.”

Clinton and Sanders are likely to debate their healthcare proposals on Thursday, with Sanders pushing hard for a single-payer healthcare system that would require a middle-class tax increase to support universal, and Sanders says cheaper, health coverage. Clinton will argue that Obamacare should be improved, not replaced.

The two candidates will surely debate gun control legislation, with Clinton likely to call Sanders out again about his vote in favor of granting gun makers immunity and questioning his commitment to gun safety.

Sanders will defend his electability in a general election and both candidates will likely expend energy targeting Republicans.

The debate comes with Sanders leading substantially in New Hampshire polls. Clinton is hoping to take a bite out of his lead and undermine his victory here by saying that he has a neighboring state advantage. (Sanders is from the state next door.) Sanders will likely tout his high volume of small-dollar donations: he outpaced Clinton in fundraising in January with $20 million brought in compared with Clinton’s $15 million.

It took days of wrangling and negotiations to get the two of them on the stage, with Sanders insisting on holding debates later in the cycle in exchange for the Thursday debate. But the two will meet at 9pm tonight on MSNBC.

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