OPINION: A preview of Tuesday’s Democratic Presidential debate

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(Illustration by Jacob Larson | The Collegian)

Last week was undeniably a bad week for some prominent Republican politicians. We’ll soon see the political impact of this week for top Democratic ones.

The first of only six Democratic presidential debates is set to take place on CNN this Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

The two big names we’ll see are the longtime front-runner, Hillary Clinton, and the progressive challenger, Bernie Sanders. They’ll debate each other along with Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee. Vice President Joe Biden, while not yet having decided on whether he will also run for the nomination, is not expected to participate in this debate.

Candidate momentum

There have been some signs of positive momentum for both Sanders and Clinton, the two main Democratic contenders, in recent weeks.

For Sanders, the big news for his campaign came when they announced on Sept. 30 that his campaign had a huge fundraising third quarter, raising $26 million, the New York Times detailed. This nearly matched Clinton’s $28 million for the quarter, despite Sanders refusing to use the help of a super PAC. That means that nearly all of his fundraising has been through small donors, an incredible feat.

Jeff Zenely wrote an article last Saturday for CNN, titled, “Clinton and Sanders = lecture vs. rock concert,” in which he commented on the energy and strategies of each campaign.

Of Sanders, Zenely noted: “he has overtaken Clinton in early New Hampshire polls, come within striking distance in Iowa, and has raised nearly as much (recent) money.”

Clinton, along with appearing on Saturday Night Live, also gained some recent positive momentum when House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy suggested heavy political motivations behind the House-run Special Committee on Benghazi, with it serving largely to target Democratic front-runner.

“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?” McCarthy said Sept. 9, on Sean Hannity’s Fox show. “But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought.”

This statement seems to validate liberals accusing the committee of being a poorly-disguised political witch hunt. If so, this wildly inappropriate motivation behind a supposed investigation into four dead American lives will only help Hillary’s case with the voters.

Debate strategies

Sanders and Clinton are coming into this debate with very different outcome agendas. Clinton, the front-runner, wants to elevate that status, and look like the choice for Democratic nominee. Sanders, a much lesser known Senator from Vermont, needs to put himself out there for people who don’t know that much about him yet. He needs to raise awareness of his candidacy and his issues.

In Politico’s article “Inside Bernie Sanders’ unorthodox debate prep,” writer Gabriel Debenedetti said that Sanders only began debate prepping “not even a full week ago,” and that “far from preparing lines to deploy against Clinton — let alone O’Malley, Lincoln Chafee or Jim Webb — Sanders plans to dish policy details, learned through a handful of briefings with experts brought in by his campaign.”

Meanwhile, according to the Politico Caucus, it would be best for Hillary to “lay off Sanders,” so as not to elevate him as her very serious contender, or alienate his more progressive voters before the general election.

Policy differences

While both fall on the same liberal side of many issues, there are still some policy and ideological differences between Sanders and Clinton. There is also the issue for voters of Clinton’s “evolution” into some of these liberal stances on gay marriage, trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, big money in politics and perhaps even the Keystone Pipeline.

Inside Gov, a website detailing the platforms, histories and other information about the Presidential nominees gives each one an ideological score in four categories – individual rights, domestic issues, economic issues, and defense and international issues.

According to their scores, Sanders and Clinton are approximately in toe on domestic, economic and individual rights issues, with their big ideological differences coming in defense and international issues, with Sanders coming down much more liberally. This will be a big contrast, especially in regards to the continuously volatile situation in the Middle East.

Don’t expect this Tuesday’s debate to be as similar to a Trump-filled fireworks show, as the Republican debates have been so far, so much as platform-building policy outlining. Though it will have less drama, it will still potentially have a great impact. Expect discussion on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, gun control (a rare place where Clinton is more liberal than Sanders), economic inequality, environmental protection, foreign policy and many other important issues.

Be an informed citizen, and be sure to tune in.

Jonathan Grieg is a senior in anthropology.

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Jonathan Greig
Hi, I’m Jonathan. I graduate this December, majoring in Anthropology, with minors in Creative Writing and Political Science. After that … we’ll see. Maybe graduate school in environmental anthropology. Maybe I’ll finally pursue my old childhood dream of becoming an infomercial host. It’s up in the air. Some of my interests and hobbies include devout sports fanaticism, religious study, and composing country songs that serve to explain the unearthly amount of disdain I have for country music. My band’s called Catfish Hurricane, you should check us out. Well, actually, you shouldn’t. I love writing, which is how I accidentally stumbled into this job. This stumbling into good things is my plan for life in general.