Well, this will certainly be interesting!
Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton’s biggest rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, is a novice to the bright lights of prime-time television, but politicians who have sparred with him in the past predict he will be a tenacious brawler in their party’s debate on Oct. 13.
Sanders, a Brooklyn native and self-styled socialist, can be argumentative, confrontational and quick to anger, according to political foes who have butted heads with him. He has come a long way from his first nervous debate performance during a U.S. Senate run more than 40 years ago, when microphones picked up the sound of his shaking knees knocking against the table.
The Vermont senator faces the biggest test of his campaign when he steps firmly into the national spotlight at the first Democratic debate with Clinton, a former first lady and secretary of state who is one of the party’s most experienced debaters. A win over Clinton, who has been bleeding support, would be a major coup for Sanders and his insurgent campaign, giving him more momentum and boosting fundraising efforts.
Ahead of the encounter, Sanders is eschewing the mock debates that presidential candidates often use for preparation, his spokesman, Michael Briggs, told Reuters.
Briggs said Sanders was comfortable with his message and views the debate as an “opportunity to talk about the issues he’s been talking about for decades.”
Clinton and Sanders have kept to a polite tone on the campaign trail, avoiding direct criticism of each other. But Briggs said he expected questions about their differences on issues such as campaign finance and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, which would liberalize trade in a region stretching from Vietnam to Canada.
[...] Sanders has drawn big crowds at rallies and town halls, but the Democratic debate in Las Vegas, Nevada, will put him on the biggest political stage to date. The other participants include former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee and former U.S. Senator James Webb of Virginia.
His former political rivals in Vermont, Republicans and Democrats alike, say the combative Sanders will be a formidable challenger to Clinton.
“There is nobody better at delivering a message than Bernie,” said Republican Richard Tarrant, a wealthy businessman who lost a 2006 Senate race to Sanders.
“His style is a little gruff. You can poke at him and get him angry, but he’s good at rolling out of it,” he said. “He’s got numbers, he’s got facts, and if he gets caught by surprise he’ll shift really quickly to his stump message. I don’t think Hillary stands a chance against him.”