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4 Things to Watch for in Tonight’s Democratic Debate

April 14, 2016, 5:44 PM UTC
Democratic Presidential Candidates Hillary Clinton And Bernie Sanders Debate In Durham, New Hampshire
Photograph by Justin Sullivan — Getty Images

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will square off in Brooklyn tonight, the first time they’ve shared the stage since March 9. Since then, Sanders has had a solid run of success, winning a string of primaries and moving within striking distance in the critical New York primary scheduled for next Tuesday.

The Democratic race has gotten a bit nasty in the past few weeks as Clinton has accused the Sanders campaign of lying about her record and Sanders himself has questioned whether Clinton is “qualified” to serve as president given her closeness to Wall Street. With that in mind, here are a few things to watch for in tonight’s debate:

1. How much heat?

For most of this election cycle, the Democratic debates have been relative snoozefests compared to the intense and personal (one might say too personal) affairs the Republican events have been. But with the recent increase in the vitriol between Clinton and Sanders, this debate could turn that trend around. Sure, we’re unlikely to get a moment like the size-of-hands debate between Donald Trump and Marco Rubio, but the intensity of the debate over Clinton’s connection to the financial sector and the feasibility of Sanders’ grandiose plans will be high.

2. The Israel Question

Sanders new Jewish Outreach Director has proved controversial. Simone Zimmerman, who joined Sanders’ campaign this week, has been an outspoken critic of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and of Israeli Occupation in the West Bank. This doesn’t exactly endear Sanders to much of the Jewish-American establishment, and in a state like New York, with a big Jewish Democratic voting base, that could be important. Given Clinton’s strident speech at the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee’s annual conference last month—and Sanders’ decision to no-show the event—this could very well come up in the debate.

3. What’s just over the river?

This debate will be taking place in Brooklyn. Just a few subway stops away is Wall Street and the financial industry—the sector of the American economy on which Sanders has based his entire campaign. With the debate and the upcoming primary happening right in Wall Street’s back yard, expect even more focus on finance and the role of Wall Street in government and in Clinton’s campaign.

4. The Trump Factor

Before Sanders’ string of victories, Clinton had started to try to pivot towards a general election, taking shots at Donald Trump and Ted Cruz—her potential adversaries in November. Now it’s clear she still has to hold off Sanders to get there. With that in mind, watch to see whether Clinton continues attacking her Republican foes or waits until she has dispatched with Sanders first.