On Thursday night at 9 p.m., Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will debate for the sixth time — the second time by themselves — in Milwaukee. PBS is hosting the debate, and you can watch it on PBS.org or CNN.com.
Here’s some context.
Last time on The 2016 Democratic Presidential Race...
As you might have heard, Bernie Sanders won big in New Hampshire on Tuesday night. His campaign hopes to ride the wind beneath his famous hair to impressive showings in South Carolina and Nevada. His many enthusiastic supporters endorse this plan and are ready to help by throwing handfuls of cash at him: Sanders raised more than $6 million in the 24 hours after his victory. The average donation, per CNN, was $34.
Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is probably getting worried. In New Hampshire — a state she won in 2008 — all demographics except for senior citizens ghosted on her. Her campaign hopes that strong showings in South Carolina, Nevada, and the many states voting on Super Tuesday would counter any suspicions that her chances of reaching the White House were diminishing. The next two states are more diverse than Iowa and New Hampshire, and many of the voters are decidedly less lefty. At the moment, FiveThirtyEight gives Clinton a 95 percent chance of winning South Carolina, and a 50 percent chance of winning the Nevada caucus.
Sanders has been spending like crazy in Nevada, trying to catch up. He has an advantage there; the time commitments of caucuses reward campaigns with the most amped-up supporters. The state is also mostly white.
Clinton is hoping to recapture the magic that made a majority of the state pick her in 2008. As Mother Jones points out, her campaign manager, Robby Mook, was in charge of Nevada eight years ago. However, things have changed since her last campaign, when she happened to win New Hampshire too. Expect the former secretary of State to bring up the fact that she was part of the Obama administration a lot in the next few days. As FiveThirtyEight notes, “Obama’s current job approval rating among blacks nationally is about 90 percent. Sanders will have big problems in South Carolina if he doesn’t do better among voters who like Obama.”
Before the debate, Bernie Sanders met with Al Sharpton at the same restaurant where the activist met with Obama eight years ago. The Congressional Black Caucus PAC just endorsed Clinton today.
The Nevada caucus is only nine days away. The South Carolina primary is on February 27.
Debate or Wrestling Match?
Going off of reporting on tonight’s event, it’s not quite clear. Here are some words that have been used to describe the exchange of policy ideas — or fight to the death; we’re not yet sure which.
So, things look like they could get ... violent.
Different States, Different Issues
One exciting thing about the change of scenery, to the west and south, is that the candidates will probably get to add a whole bunch of new issues to their debate repertoire. The things that voters care about in New Hampshire and Iowa aren’t the same things that will motivate people in Nevada and South Carolina. The moderators might approach issues differently, too; this is PBS we’re talking about.
The moderators will also be making history — Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff will be the first all-female moderator team ever in a presidential debate.
So what can we expect to hear about?
1. The Economy
The economy will definitely play a large role in the debate, as per usual — Sanders has a gift of being able to turn any question into an opening to talk about his views on economic inequality, and this happens to be the issue where the candidates’ opposing views can easily be put into stark relief.
2. Criminal Justice and Voting Rights
Questions on criminal-justice reform and voting rights will likely be asked, too — in South Carolina, you have to show a photo ID before you can vote, a restriction that many advocates think limits access. Immigration reform has been absent in recent debates, but expect it to come up tonight. A Pew Research Center study from 2014 showed that Nevada had the highest proportion of undocumented immigrants in the country.
Expect both candidates to bring up the Flint water crisis if they aren’t asked about it. The issue will be an even bigger presence in the Democratic debate on March 6 -- which will take place right in Flint, Michigan.
Reproductive rights have also been absent from recent debates. NARAL Pro-Choice America gives Nevada a B+ and South Carolina an F on reproductive rights.
During the last Republican debate, candidates faulted the Democrats for not discussing the issue — framing it in a way that suggested Sanders and Clinton were afraid of telling the public their views. “There has been five Democratic debates,” Senator Marco Rubio said. "The media has not asked them a single question on abortion, and on abortion, the Democrats are extremists." That is an accusation you’d think the candidates would want to respond to.
We interrupt this programming to give you an update on the Republican presidential contest.
In case things didn’t look complicated and messy enough already, here's a reminder that the Republican contests in Nevada and South Carolina are on completely different days. The GOP will vote in South Carolina on the same day Democrats are caucusing in Nevada. On February 23, the Republicans will head to Nevada.
Before then, the GOP candidates -- there are fewer of them almost every day -- will debate in South Carolina. That will happen at 9 p.m. this Saturday. Expect Donald Trump and Ted Cruz to be in good moods, and expect everyone else to be gnawing on their nails. It’s going to be an interesting few weeks.