The eyes of the politically attuned will flip to CNN tonight to watch the inaugural Democratic debate, featuring Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in their first shoulder-to-shoulder encounter of the campaign season.
The Democratic frontrunner and her closest challenger will be joined in the lectern lineup by fellow presidential hopefuls Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb, and Lincoln Chafee. Sanders is expected to come out swinging in an attempt to make up some ground on Clinton, but the Dems’ first showdown will most likely be a more decorous affair than the recent GOP debate.
“Hillary Clinton is a very seasoned debater; she knows she is going in with the most to lose,” Fusion anchor Alicia Menendez, who will be hosting a focus group during tonight’s debate, told fellow Fusion anchor Jorge Ramos. “Bernie Sanders is going to draw a sharp contrast with Hillary Clinton, but I don’t think he is going to outwardly attack her.”
Menendez thinks the “burden” of tonight’s performance falls on tertiary candidate Martin O’Malley, who hopes to exceed expectations and pull a Carly Fiorina by distinguishing himself as a dark horse contender near the rear of the pack.
When it comes to content, which could play a more prominent role among a smaller field of candidates, Menendez expects to hear talk about gun control, immigration and student debt—an issue that she says resonates loudly with the Democrats’ base of supporters.
Fusion anchor Jorge Ramos says he’ll be listening for nuances in the candidates’ positions on immigration, but, based on years of covering elections, doesn’t expect the presidential hopefuls to dedicate much breath to Latin America.
“It’s funny because everybody says Latin America is so important, but they never talk about it,” Ramos said.