The former secretary of state still leads the race. But her loss could indicate she may have a tough time in the Rust Belt where the independent Vermont senator hopes to do well in the coming weeks.
Clinton has a lead over Sanders in the race for delegates and she has a massive advantage when counting superdelegates, Democratic party leaders who can back any candidate regardless of how their states vote
Their eighth debate Wednesday night comes days before important primaries in three of those industrial Midwestern states – Illinois, Missouri and Ohio – as well as Florida and North Carolina.
The two-hour event at Miami Dade College, starting at 9 p.m. EST, will air on Univision in Spanish and will simulcast on FUSION and CNN in English.
Here’s what to look for.
Can Clinton pivot to the general election?
After winning a series of larger delegate states on Super Tuesday last week, Clinton began pivoting toward the Republicans as she looks toward the general election.
But after her loss in a state she was expected to win handily, Clinton might need to take on Sanders a bit more. In Sunday’s debate in Michigan, she and Sanders engaged in one of their more testy exchanges. She targeted the Republican opponents only when asked near the debate’s end.
“I think that Donald Trump’s bigotry, his bullying, his bluster are not going to wear well on the American people,” she said.
Now with a second debate in a week, Clinton will again have to decide whether to battle Sanders or fire at the Republicans, including front-runner Trump.
It’s an opportunity for her to turn the page to the general election in a major swing state.
Steve Schale, a Democratic strategist in Florida
It’s a difficult choice since Sanders, who has millions of dollars and an enthusiastic following, plans to stay in the race if only to perpetuate his message about diminishing the power of America’s so-called billionaire class.
The fight over the black vote
Clinton is winning in large part because of black voters – especially in Southern states such as South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama – who are voting for her in staggering numbers.
She’s devoted several speeches to issues that appeal to African-American voters, including criminal justice. She’s tied herself politically to the first black president. And she campaigns with women whose children were killed, many of them black.
Sanders has talked about the same issues and has rolled out some big African-American endorsements, but with limited success, in part because some of his perceived gaffes.
Last month, some bristled when he said he’d be better for race relations than President Barack Obama.
At Sunday’s debate, when asked about racial blind spots, he suggested that all poor people are black. “When you are white, you don’t know what it’s like to be living in a ghetto, you don’t know what it’s like to be poor,” he said.
Brad Coker, managing director at Mason-Dixon Polling & Research in Jacksonville, Florida, said he was not surprised to see Clinton’s success with African-Americans. “Going in, she saw the South as a place she could rack up the numbers,” he said.
How far will Sanders go to attack her?
Sanders, who maintains a decades-long pledge to run only positive campaigns, has been reluctant to attack Clinton, though that has gradually changed even as many refer to her as the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee. He has talked about her inconsistencies, stance on trade and ties to Wall Street.
Now, after his win Tuesday, Sanders will try to continue to keep voters’ attention. He has made clear that he won’t attack her for her controversial personal email account, which is part of an FBI investigation, but he could cite polls that show that more than half of Americans don’t trust her.
There’s room for him to be a little more aggressive. . . . The issue that still kind of plagues Secretary Clinton is the trustworthy issue. There are ways without directly attacking to still needle her with that.
Aaron Kall, presidential debate expert at the University of Michigan
But he needs to be careful. His rebuke of her in Sunday’s debate drew some charges of sexist behavior.
When she tried to interrupt him, he said, “Excuse me, I’m talking,” as the audience gasped.
“You’ll get your turn,” he said later.
Who has the advantage on Cuba?
Less than two weeks before Obama becomes the first U.S. president to visit Cuba in more than 80 years, both Democratic candidates say they support the U.S. restoring diplomatic relations with the island nation.
It wasn’t always that way.
Years ago, Sanders, then a small-town U.S. mayor, flew to Cuba for an eight-day visit with his wife in an attempt to meet with leader Fidel Castro. Years ago, Clinton, then Obama’s opponent for the White House, criticized him for suggesting he would meet with Castro’s brother and newly elected leader Raul Castro.
Cuba is expected to be an issue at the debate in Miami, a metropolitan area with more than a million Cuban immigrants. That might create vulnerabilities for both candidates: Clinton for inconsistency and Sanders for his willingness to meet with a dictator.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story gave the wrong day for the debate in the headline.