Clinton, Sanders face tense debate

2016-04-14 21:10
US presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton shake hands after a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by MSNBC at the University of New Hampshire. (David Goldman, AP)

US presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton shake hands after a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by MSNBC at the University of New Hampshire. (David Goldman, AP)

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New York - Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were holding their first debate in more than a month on Thursday, a showdown that comes at a tense moment ahead of next Tuesday's Democratic primary in New York.

Republicans Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich were also in New York to speak at a state Republican Party gala before Cruz and Kasich were making appearances on late-night shows.

Front-runners Clinton and Trump hope New York can propel them into the general election in November. Preference polls show them leading their respective contests heading into Tuesday's primary.

Sanders on Thursday disavowed remarks made by a campaign surrogate who told a large New York City rally on Wednesday that voters shouldn't "continue to elect corporate Democratic whores" beholden to special interests.

Sanders said on Twitter that the comment by Dr Paul Song, a health care activist, "was inappropriate and insensitive."

Both Democrats have New York ties. Clinton spent eight years as a senator for the state. Sanders, a Vermont senator, was born in Brooklyn. While he is on a winning streak in recent primaries and caucuses, he desperately needs a big victory in New York if he hopes to cut into Clinton's delegate lead and slow her march to the nomination.

On the Republican side, Trump is a Queens native, built his fortune in New York's real estate market and lives in a Manhattan high-rise bearing his name.

Trump hopes New York marks an end to the worst period of his candidacy, which raised new questions about his policy qualifications and revealed his campaign's unpreparedness for a potential delegate fight if the Republican race heads to a contested convention in July.

A big victory in New York could preserve Trump's ability to clinch the nomination before the convention. A candidate needs 1 237 delegates to clinch the Republican nomination.

But Cruz has been cutting into Trump's delegate lead and working feverishly to court delegates who would be free to switch loyalties if the convention's first round of balloting doesn't determine a clear nominee.

New York hasn't been friendly territory for the Texas senator. Even as he's tried to embrace East Coast culture, including making matzo with children in an Orthodox Jewish neighbourhood in Brooklyn, he's been followed by his earlier criticism of Trump's conceivably more liberal "New York values."

Seeking to lower expectations, Cruz said on Wednesday that if Trump doesn't get more than 50% of the vote in his home state, "that's widely going to be seen as a crushing loss."

Read more on:    bernie sanders  |  hillary clinton  |  us  |  us 2016 elections

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