At the very least, Sanders likely extended the Democratic contest for weeks with his show of strength in the Midwest in a way that will force Clinton to confront his critique over her ties to Wall Street, her past support for free-trade deals opposed by the Democratic base and what he says is a corrupt economy and political system weighted against the middle and working classes.
The debate in Miami follows a testy faceoff between the rivals in Flint, Michigan, at a CNN debate on Sunday night. That showdown was punctuated by impatient complaints by Sanders that Clinton was talking over him, so the tone of Wednesday’s debate will be closely watched.
Since the debate will be broadcast by Univision, the candidates can expect questions on issues that are particularly important to the Latino community, including immigration reform.
Clinton had a 2-1 lead over Sanders in a Washington Post/Univision Poll last month among Latino voters. And in the Texas primary last week, 71% of Latino voters voted for Clinton, who has vowed to aggressively push immigration reform in her first term as president and to extend President Barack Obama’s executive orders shielding some undocumented migrants from deportation.
Sanders has said he would take a similar stance on the executive orders and backs comprehensive immigration reform and a path toward citizenship.
At a Democratic debate in February on MSNBC, however, Clinton hammered Sanders for opposing a bipartisan comprehensive effort to reform the immigration system during the George W. Bush administration.
“I don’t think it was progressive to vote against Ted Kennedy’s immigration reform,” she said.
Sanders said he voted against the bill because it included big increases in a guest-worker program that he says undercuts American workers by importing cheap labor and leaves those who come into the country at the mercy of unscrupulous employers.