data breach fight, Clinton and Sanders face off at Democratic debate
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[December 19, 2015]
By John Whitesides
MANCHESTER, N.H. (Reuters) - U.S.
Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton and rival Bernie Sanders square
off in a potentially combative debate on Saturday, one day after their
presidential campaigns erupted in a bitter feud over an improper breach
of Clinton voter files by a Sanders staffer.
The rising tension at the debate between two rivals who have
largely refrained from attacking each other comes at a crucial
moment for Sanders, who is trying to erase Clinton's lead in the
November 2016 Democratic White House race just six weeks before the
first nominating contest in Iowa.
On Friday, Sanders filed a lawsuit to force the Democratic National
Committee to restore access to his voter files, which the DNC had
blocked after the Sanders campaign improperly accessed files
generated by the Clinton campaign. The DNC and Sanders reached a
late-night deal restoring access for Sanders.
Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver accused the DNC of working to
protect Clinton, pointing to the party's limited debates at
low-viewership periods like Saturday nights as another example.
Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook accused the Sanders campaign of
stealing parts of its "strategic road map" for voter turnout in the
The moderators of the ABC News debate will no doubt try to get the
two candidates to renew that fight on the stage at the debate, where
Sanders already had signaled his intention to turn up the heat on
Clinton on foreign policy issues.
The debate is the party's first since the deadly Dec. 2 attacks in
San Bernardino, California, and Sanders also is eager to explore his
differences with the former secretary of state on issues like her
support for a no-fly zone in Syria and her 2011 advocacy for regime
change in Libya, his campaign said.
"She comes off as more hawkish on some of her foreign policy ideas,"
said Michael Briggs, a spokesman for Sanders. "He is going to point
out those differences very clearly."
Sanders could be running out of time to catch Clinton, who holds a
double-digit lead in national polls and a smaller polling edge in
Iowa, which kicks off the race on Feb. 1. She narrowly trails the
U.S. senator from Vermont in neighboring New Hampshire, the second
state to vote.
Sanders likely needs a win in both states to mount a serious
challenge to Clinton, who will be heavily favored in the next state
contests in Nevada, South Carolina and in a "Super Tuesday" round of
voting in 11 states on March 1.
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"The reality for Sanders is he's only got a couple more shots to
change the dynamic of the race," said Democratic strategist Chris
Kofinis. "The only choice he's got is to shake the race up."
Clinton, Sanders and former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, who
lags badly in polls, will participate in the debate in Manchester,
New Hampshire, which begins at 8 p.m. EST (0100 GMT Sunday) and will
be televised nationally by ABC News.
As an experienced front-runner, Clinton is unlikely to get drawn
into a fight, said Kathleen Sullivan, a former chairwoman of the New
Hampshire Democratic Party and a Clinton supporter.
"She'll be fine. She isn't going to focus on Bernie Sanders or
Martin O'Malley. She's just going to deliver her message and stay on
point," Sullivan said.
The television viewership is almost certain to be relatively small,
given its timing on the Saturday night before Christmas. Less than 9
million viewers watched last month's Democratic debate on a Saturday
night. The Republican debate earlier this week drew more than 18
(Editing by Lisa Shumaker; Editing by Michael Perry)
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