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In Tonight's Debate, Bernie Sanders May Have The Most To Lose

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Jose Luis Magana
/
AP
With the momentum of Bernie Sanders' campaign, there's a lot at stake in Tuesday night's Democratic debate, according to Norwich University political science professor Megan Remmel.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is expected to highlight some key issue differences with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at Tuesday night's debate in Las Vegas. But the Sanders campaign says it will not engage in any personal attacks against Clinton.

When Sanders takes the stage at the Democratic primary debate this evening, he'll be outlining his agenda to by far the largest audience of his political career. It's estimated that at least 10 million people will watch the event.

Jeff Weaver, Sanders' campaign manager, says Sanders plans to identify a number of important issues in which he and Hillary Clinton have a different point of view.

“There are substantive differences on the issues, and certainly … those will be the topic of the debate,” Weaver says. “We intend to highlight the differences, as I am sure she is going to highlight the differences. But what we're not going to engage in is the kind of nasty personal petty attacks that you've seen that really characterize the Republican side in this particular election." 

There will be three other candidates on the stage: Former Virginia senator Jim Webb, former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley and former Rhode Island senator and governor Lincoln Chaffee.

"Anything that is seen as being just an OK performance would actually count against him ... Simply because the momentum is behind him and the favorability ratings are behind him." - Megan Remmel, Norwich University political science professor

Megan Remmel, a political science professor at Norwich University, says the strategies of the other candidates might allow Sanders to take the high road.

"He might also benefit from O'Malley, from Webb, from Chaffee, letting them go after Hillary Clinton, letting them be the bad guys and the ones that engage in some of this negative campaigning,” she says. “Whereas he can avoid that and continue to talk about his issues and his way." 

Retired Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis says the debate is an opportunity for Sanders to introduce his agenda to a national audience.

And Davis says it's critical for Sanders to reach out to a larger constituency if he hopes to successfully compete with Clinton after the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary.

"At this point I think Sanders' biggest challenge is still expanding his base of support to include the full diversity of voters that make up the Democratic Primary and caucus electorate." - Eric Davis, former Middlebury College political science professor

"At this point I think Sanders’ biggest challenge is still expanding his base of support to include the full diversity of voters that make up the Democratic Primary and caucus electorate,” Davis says.

Megan Remmel, of Norwich University, thinks there's a lot at stake for Sanders in this debate.

"Anything that is seen as being just an okay performance would actually count against him,” she says. "I think he's probably got the toughest track to have to follow for this debate, simply because the momentum is behind him and the favorability ratings are behind him. So he's potentially got the most to lose."

The Sanders campaign is setting up more than 4,000 debate watching parties throughout the country and a number of these events will be held throughout Vermont.

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