Democratic debate preview: Hillary tries to rally after Michigan loss

CNN will be simulcasting a Democratic debate tonight which should be airing by the time this post goes up. The debate takes place in Miami and is being hosted by Univision and the Washington Post which makes it likely that immigration reform will be a major topic tonight.

What we’re seeing this week is nearly a variation of what we saw heading into South Carolina, i.e. both campaigns bring out minority surrogates to try to rally support over issues of particular concern to that community. In South Carolina it was criminal justice reform and the candidates’ historical commitment to the civil rights movement. In Florida, it’s the details of each candidate’s support for elements of immigration reform. Huffington Post reports on the war of words so far this week:

The campaigns gave a preview of their attack lines in dueling calls with the press on Tuesday, bringing out Latino lawmakers and former officials to do so. Sanders supporters, including Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), said Clinton was inconsistent on the issue, citing her 2007 opposition to driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants and her 2014 statement that unaccompanied minors coming to the U.S. from Central America “should be sent back.”

Clinton supporters hit back, pointing out that although he voted for comprehensive immigration reform in 2013, Sanders voted against it in 2007. He also broke with Democrats in a 2006 vote to protect Minutemen militias that patrolled the southern border, and was generally absent from reform efforts during his time in the House, Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) told reporters on a call.

CNN reports Clinton has the advantage with Latino voters which she’ll need to solidify tonight:

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.

However, Sanders is still rising in the polls and is coming off an upset win in Michigan last night. That makes this a moment where he could create another surprise to further erode the sense of inevitability Clinton’s camp is trying to cultivate. In short, there is actually something at stake for both candidates in tonight’s debate. A win or even a draw would benefit Clinton but a gutsy performance by Sanders could further boost his campaign and make it harder for Clinton to put this nomination race away next Tuesday.

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