Sen. Bernie Sanders is challenging Hillary Clinton to debate him in New York before the state’s primary on April 19.
Sanders brought up the debate during an appearance on Meet The Press:
Now, according to our folks, the last time you chastised your supporters for booing Hillary Clinton was on February 23rd. Now you don’t do that. Any reason?
No, no reason at all. You know, every day we are in different position here. I respect Secretary Clinton, I don’t want our supporters to be booing her. But there are real differences of opinion. And one of the differences is that she has raised $15 million from Wall Street. We have raised 6 million individual contributions, averaging $27 a piece. People respond the way they respond.
But what we are trying to do in this campaign is to differentiate our positions from Secretary Clinton on the war in Iraq, on fracking, on how we raise money. That is what the American people want to hear. And by the way, one other point, Chuck. I would hope very much that as we go into New York State, Secretary Clinton’s home state, that we will have a debate, New York City, upstate, wherever, on the important issues facing New York and in fact the country.
Are you worried she won’t debate you anymore?
Yeah, I do have a little bit of concern about that. But I certainly would like to see a debate in New York State.
Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver sent a letter to Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook pressing him for the April Democratic debate to be held in New York, “It is difficult to understand your motivation. Can you please explain why New York should not host the April debate? Is the Secretary concerned about debating before the people who twice elected her to the U.S. Senate? Perhaps there is some tactical advantage you are seeking by avoiding a debate in New York but I would remind you that Sen. Sanders agreed to debate the secretary in New Hampshire when he was well ahead in the polls.”
The Sanders campaign thinks that they have a shot at winning New York, and they would like a chance to debate former Sec. of State Clinton ahead of the state’s primary. Frontrunners don’t like debates. Clinton really doesn’t need the debate in New York, so it is easy to see why her campaign would not be interested in the Sanders proposal.
Supporters of the trailing candidate like to frame these questions as a matter of political courage or cowardice, but the truth is that no frontrunner in any election likes additional debates. Debates always benefit the challenger more. That being said, the April Democratic primary debate will likely end up in Wisconsin, New York or Pennsylvania.
Bernie Sanders is pressing hard, but Hillary Clinton has little to gain by debating in New York.