Democratic Presidential Debates Turn Contentious on Eve of First Primary Contests
With the last stretch of the Democratic Party’s presidential primary set to begin, the overall tone among the main nominees has turned tougher and forecasts in favor or against each candidate grow louder, particularly between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.).
Despite this, the two main leaders of the Democratic Party in Puerto Rico, Roberto Prats and Kenneth McClintock, pegged Clinton as the favorite to win the presidential ticket.
Prats, who is the president of the Democratic Party’s Puerto Rico chapter, said the latest debate, which took place Jan. 17, “was the next to last debate, and we expected it to be the toughest.” Puerto Rico is slated to hold its own primary for the Democratic nomination June 5.
Prats also anticipated that the last scheduled debate among Democratic candidates, scheduled for sometime in March, will air on Univisión, a Spanish-language network, and as a result, the participants will most likely debate issues related to the Latino community.
“Bernie Sanders will draw good numbers, but everything points to Clinton ending up as the nominee,” Prats noted.
McClintock, a Democratic Party Committeeman since 2000, said Sanders “needed to draw blood from Clinton during the most recent debate, which he did. However, it wasn’t enough for Sanders to win the debate,” he noted. “For that reason, Clinton will continue her momentum in consolidating support on the national level, despite the virtual tie they are showing on the eve of the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primaries.”
After votes are counted in both nominating contests, he said polls at the state level will become less important, while national polls will increasingly gain importance. “I see Clinton gaining a wider margin after Iowa and New Hampshire,” McClintock added.
During the Jan. 17 debate, held in Charleston, S.C., Clinton accused Sanders of intending to “tear up” the Affordable Care Act (ACA) implemented by U.S. President Barack Obama and also known as “Obamacare.” Hours before the debate, Sanders had unveiled a plan for a Medicare-for-all universal healthcare program.
“We finally have a path to universal healthcare,” said Clinton during the debate, in reference to ACA. “We have accomplished so much already. I don’t to want see the Republicans repeal it, and I don’t to want see us start over again with a contentious debate. I want us to defend and build on the Affordable Care Act and improve it.”
The ACA, touted as the most significant regulatory overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965, was enacted to increase the quality and affordability of health insurance. The law also imposed a health insurance mandate that has proved controversial and has been severely challenged by the Republican opposition.
Sanders responded by calling Clinton’s remarks “nonsense. What a Medicare-for-all program does is finally provide in this country healthcare for every man, woman and child as a right,” he added. “I made the Affordable Care Act, along with Jim Clyburn, a better piece of legislation. I voted for it, but right now, what we have to deal with is the fact that 29 million people still have no health insurance.”
The debate, which aired on the NBC network, took place a mere 14 days before the Iowa caucuses, slated for Feb. 1, which in turn marks the beginning of the primary season. The Iowa caucuses have traditionally served as an early indicator of which candidates for president may win the nomination of their political party at each party’s national convention. Both the Democratic Party and Republic Party national conventions are scheduled to be held in July.
Meanwhile, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, Clinton leads Sanders by 25 points on the national stage. Clinton is the first choice of 59% of Democratic primary voters, while Sanders gets the support of 34%, the poll shows.
The numbers show a widening margin from December, when the same poll showed Clinton with a 19-point national advantage over Sanders, 56% to 37%.
By Ismael Torres