Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will debate for the last time before the New Hampshire primary tonight at 9 p.m. ET. (You can watch online here.) For the first time ever, the debate stage will represent the reality of the race — these two candidates will be sparring alone, without the desperate intrusion of any other hopefuls.
Let’s break down the odds of things that might happen.
The side-eye returns: 7/1
Based on how contentious things get tonight, it seems inevitable that Clinton will say something that makes Sanders make this face again:
We suspect that it will probably be in response to something about gun policy or health care, which the pair argue about every time they meet.
A significant portion of the evening descends into a debate about semantics — 50/1
Bernie Sanders came this close to winning Iowa. He also has a significant lead in New Hampshire. Thus, he has an incentive to start getting a bit feistier in emphasizing the differences between the two campaigns. He has marked differences between himself and Clinton in previous debates — but he has also said many nice things. This week, his campaign started with a few fighting words over the definition of “progressive” and whether it was a word that applies to Clinton. Expect that to continue tonight — the moderators are going to want to bring it up.
Both candidates fall asleep on stage: 9/5
Clinton and Sanders are probably exhausted. They went to a town hall in New Hampshire on Wednesday night and have been campaigning nonstop since the Iowa caucuses on Monday.
Ben Carson falls asleep onstage: 7/5
It’s just been a really long election already, and he has just been so tired from talking about foreign policy and hummus all the time. The quiet in New Hampshire keeps him up all night, so he just drove to Durham so the sound of Democratic policies could bore him to sleep. It works almost as well as the sound of Jeb Bush talking about Donald Trump, which puts him to sleep every single time during GOP debates. If this being-president thing doesn’t work out, he already has plans to sell DVDs of debates to people who suffer from insomnia in order to pay back his campaign debts.
Larry David shows up: 1/5
As Bernie Sanders revealed at yesterday’s town hall, he is the comedian.
Both candidates say something extremely kind about New Hampshire: 33/1
If there are one or two voters out there who can be won over by a mention of how great their state is, Sanders and Clinton aren’t going to just ignore them.
Hillary reminds New Hampshire that it really, really liked her eight years ago: 9/1
In 2008, Clinton was supposed to lose to her opponent, too, and then she won. She’d sure like a reprise performance.
The debate gets canceled at the last minute and rescheduled for 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving: Even
This debate wasn’t even supposed to happen, but then the Democratic National Committee decided it would add a few more to the calendar. Most of the previous debates happened during the weekend — often on three-day weekends, when people were especially unlikely to turn in. Some people accused the DNC of holding so few debates as a way of protecting Clinton — if that was the case, it wasn’t a very good strategy, as she has done very well at all of the debates. Another debate will be held in Flint, Michigan, next month.
The camera zooms in on Martin O’Malley, who is sitting in the back row of the audience, holding various signs that say things like “Maryland is the Greatest” and “Talk More About Climate Change and Immigration, Please” and “I Look Like Someone Who Would Play VP on The West Wing, Right?”: 3/5
Donald Trump Shows Up, Hoping to Debate: 1/5
Trump is very exacting when it comes to negotiating the terms of debates — it seems unthinkable that he wouldn’t have built a rain-check clause into his contract, allowing him to bow out of debates that scared him, then just make them up at a later time. Since Megyn Kelly definitely won’t be at this one, and he thinks that Clinton and Sanders would just be the easiest to beat, why not tonight? However, it might be hard for him to convince security to kick out all the people in the audience who boo him.
When asked what special qualifications she has to be president that her opponent doesn’t possess, Hillary Clinton transfigures herself into a phoenix and bursts into flames: 1/1,000
After this debate-winning moment, Sanders is asked the same question and reveals that his flag pin is a miniature time machine. He disappears for a moment and returns a moment later, telling everyone to look at his Snapchat account. On it is a video endorsement from Abraham Lincoln. Clinton asks if she can borrow it in order to fast-forward to the South Carolina primary.
The moderators ask a question about abortion: 5/2
Previous debates haven’t devoted much, or any, time to women’s health or reproductive rights. It’s something worth asking the candidates about — especially given the debate over Planned Parenthood funding, and laws that have limited access to abortion, especially for poor women, in many states. Moderators did have time to ask a question about who would pick the flowers and china in a Clinton administration.
Clinton supporters will think she wins the debate, while Sanders supporters will be sure he won: 10/1
Winning is in the eye of the beholder. Just ask Trump, who is pretty sure he won the Iowa caucus.