With the Republican presidential primary dominating the headlines right now, it's easy to forget that there is a race for the Democratic nomination going on, too. It may be even easier to overlook the fact that the Dems are debating this weekend.
Saturday's event in Manchester, N.H. will be the Democratic Party's third debate in the 2016 presidential election cycle. Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley will take a much less crowded stage than on the GOP side to make their case to voters and discuss the issues.
The context in which the contenders are meeting this time around is starkly different from the last debate, which took place the day after the terrorist attacks in Paris. Just hours before the event, CBS News decided to shift the focus of the conversation to terrorism, national security and foreign relations, throwing an unexpected -- and for some, unwelcome -- curveball at the candidates.
While Clinton continues to command a significant lead among Democrats in the national polls and is largely considered to have her party's nomination locked down, in New Hampshire she encounters a more Sanders-friendly electorate. According to a poll average from RealClearPolitics, the U.S. senator from Vermont is polling at 48% there, compared to the former secretary of state's 43%. The most recent poll of the state, from Franklin Pierce University and the Boston Herald, show Clinton shrinking the Sanders lead: 48% for Sanders and 46% for Clinton.
Host network ABC hasn't had much to say about how it will handle the debate: A spokesperson told Politico that no formatting information would be released ahead of the event. Viewers may want to follow David Muir, who will be moderating the debate alongside Martha Raddatz, on Twitter -- the "ABC World News Tonight" anchor said in an interview with Vanity Fair earlier this year that he tweets during commercial breaks.
TheStreet will be covering Saturday's Democratic debate live on Saturday starting at 8:00 p.m. ET:
-- We'll also be posting Vine videos here.
If you're watching (or plan to catch up the next day), here are four things to keep in mind ahead of time.
1. Bernie, Buffett and the Billionaire Brawl
Sanders has been beating the campaign finance reform drum throughout his campaign, contrasting his campaign with Clinton's, which many perceive as too-cozy with big money. This week, the former first lady may have given him more fuel for his anti-billionaire fire by inviting Warren Buffett, America's second richest man, to join her on the campaign trail.
At an event in Omaha Wednesday, the billionaire at the helm of Berkshire Hathaway endorsed Clinton in her bid for the White House. Buffett's persona and message -- the problem of wealth inequality and a need for increased taxes on the rich -- may serve to help Clinton's image, but his bank account could potentially give Sanders another opening for critique.
At the November Democratic debate in Iowa, Sanders characterized Clinton's approach to Wall Street as "not good enough." This month, his campaign ran a short-lived digital attack ad portraying Clinton's campaign as being funded by banks and other "big money interests" but pulled it when media outlets took note. Instead, his camp took a more indirect swipe at Clinton in a video Wednesday celebrating reaching two million donations.
"Over two million contributions have been made to the only campaign that rejects the corrupt campaign finance system," Sanders says in the ad. "You can't level the playing field by taking money from Wall Street banks and billionaires."
2. Time to Talk Trump?
Over two million contributions have been made to the only campaign that rejects a corrupt campaign finance system. https://t.co/avmYgOKaQz— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) December 17, 2015
With the exception of O'Malley's reference to "immigrant bashing carnival barker Donald Trump," the Democratic debates have been pretty light on discussion of the GOP frontrunner. But given his continued domination of the polls on the Republican side and increasingly inflammatory comments, including a call to ban Muslim travel to the U.S., Dems may be unable to avoid the Trump discussion.
They haven't been hesitant to mention him on the campaign trail. Clinton has targeted the billionaire real estate magnate on social media (include a new Twitter hashtag, #LoveTrumpsHate) and this week made headlines by filming a video for a supporter's father who is backing Trump. "I don't have horns," she said as a campaign volunteer filmed her.
Sanders cast Trump as a "xenophobic" and "racist" demagogue and has faulted the press for the seemingly never-ending summer of Trump. The senator's camp has drawn attention to a report revealing the media's disproportionate coverage of Trump and circulated a petition to "tell corporate news networks to start covering Bernie."
O'Malley has blamed a different entity for Trump's rise: the Democratic National Committee. At a National Immigrant Integration Conference in Brooklyn on Tuesday, he said part of the billionaire's popularity is tied to the DNC's intentionally limited debate schedule. "Our party bears a lot of culpability for Donald Trump's rise by the way we have delayed debates; we have cut off debates, and we have hidden debates," he said. He might have a point.
3. A Potential Take on Interest Rates
The Federal Reserve increased the federal-funds rate for the first time in nearly a decade on Wednesday. While it's a topic Democrats tend to prefer to avoid, it may impact who wins the White House in 2016. Candidates on Saturday could wind up discussing it.
Sanders already has.
Following the Fed's decision Wednesday, Sanders put out a statement criticizing the move and took to Twitter to air out his grievances as well. He called the rate hike "bad news for working families" and said, "The Fed should act with the same sense of urgency to rebuild the disappearing middle class as it did to bail out Wall Street banks."
When millions are working longer hours for lower wages, the Fed's decision to raise interest rates is bad news for working families.— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) December 16, 2015
The Fed should act with the same sense of urgency to rebuild the disappearing middle class as it did to bail out Wall Street banks.— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) December 16, 2015
4. The Terrorism Question
The Paris attacks put terrorism front and center at the November Democratic debate, and though it won't be the only issue candidates will tackle on Saturday, it will have to be revisited.
Since the Dems last appeared together on stage, 14 people were killed in a shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, Calif., and three people were gunned down in an attack at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, Colo. President Obama addressed the nation on terrorism and security in a speech from the Oval Office at the start of the month.
The Dems reacted to Republicans' comments and will likely continue the conversation on Saturday.
Repeat after me: We must combat anti-Muslim bigotry and all forms of discrimination in our country and in our world. #GOPDebate— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) December 16, 2015
Shallow slogans and chest-beating don’t add up to a strategy for defeating terrorism and keeping America safe. pic.twitter.com/9V7kAB7qqc— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) December 16, 2015
Remember, TheStreet will be covering Saturday's Democratic debate live on Saturday starting at 8:00 p.m. ET:
-- We'll also be posting Vine videos here.