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Democrats Hillary Clinton And Bernie Sanders Debate Ahead Of New York Primary


The Democratic presidential candidates are meeting for a debate tonight in Brooklyn. It's the first time Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have faced each other in a debate in over a month. In that time, the race has gotten much less polite, and Bernie Sanders has gone on a run, winning 8 of the last 9 contests.

Clinton is hoping to break his winning streak in New York on Tuesday. NPR's Tamara Keith joins us now from Manhattan before she heads across the bridge for the debate. Hi, Tam.


SIEGEL: Judging from the slugfest that these candidates have been conducting over the last week or so, we could be in for some fireworks tonight.

KEITH: Yeah, there were two days of feuding in the last week or so over whether their opponent was qualified to be president or not. The campaigns have been going back and forth on things like whether Hillary Clinton should release the transcripts from her high-dollar speeches and whether Bernie Sanders should release years of back tax returns.

And then on the actual issues, Sanders is going to want to talk about fracking, fundraising and immigration. Clinton is going to want to talk about gun control, environmental justice - she announced a plan yesterday on that - and foreign policy. And another thing that we can pretty much expect them to spend time talking about is the 1990s.

SIEGEL: Meaning, for example, the crime bill and welfare reform.

KEITH: Exactly. Bill Clinton's presidency is a source of both pride and a challenge for his wife in this campaign. The economy was really good back in the Clinton administration, but Bill Clinton also signed the 1994 crime bill, the 1996 welfare reform as well as NAFTA. Bernie Sanders is critical of all of these things, though he ultimately did vote in favor of the crime bill. And if that comes up, you can expect Hillary Clinton to remind everyone of that at tonight's debate.

You know, the crime bill is blamed for the problems of mass incarceration that the country is dealing with now, and both Clinton and Sanders on the campaign trail regularly talk about reforming the criminal justice system.

SIEGEL: Tam, you reported yesterday on the program on Hillary Clinton's speech to the National Action Network Convention. Today Bernie Sanders spoke to the civil rights group in New York. What did he have to say, and how was he received there?

KEITH: Sanders delivered a shorter version of his regular stump speech, and the people in the room loved it. There was a lot of cheering at all of the applause lines. And then after he was done speaking, people rushed up to the front of the room to get pictures with him. Sanders was talking in part - part of the time about the march on Washington with Dr. Martin Luther King, and he pointed out to this group that it wasn't just the march for freedom; it was the march for jobs and freedom.


BERNIE SANDERS: And what Dr. King understood is of course you have to destroy segregation. Of course you have to open up opportunity for all people. But then he said, what does it matter if you desegregate a lunch counter but you don't have the money to buy the damn hamburger.

KEITH: And this is interesting to me because it's sort of a mirror image in terms of emphasis from what Clinton was saying yesterday where she argued inequality is about not just economics but also race.

SIEGEL: OK. That's NPR's Tamara Keith in New York. Thanks, Tam.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.