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Previewing Tonight's Democratic Presidential Debate

Michael Dwyer
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, speaks during a campaign rally in Springfield, Mass.

As the first Democratic presidential debate unfolds tonight in Las Vegas, speculations continue over the nature of this debate and the character of those running.  With five or six candidates at the podiums (depending on if Joe Biden makes an appearance or not), each candidate will have ample opportunity to make their voices heard.

Terry Madonna, Professor of Public Affairs and Director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College says that tonight’s debate will reveal the combativeness of candidates.

“Each of the candidates has something to prove---something to gain and something to lose.”

Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton has hit some snags as of late in light of the ongoing investigation into her email scandal, which, according to Madonna, could put her trustworthiness in question for some voters.

The question still plaguing Pennsylvania voters: Is the Commonwealth still a swing state?

In the past six presidential elections beginning in 1992, Pennsylvania has turned up blue, though not by much.  In 2012, Pennsylvania was the sixth closest popular vote state.  This, Madonna explains, is why Pennsylvania is going to be so important for this election.

“There’s forty states that don’t matter, ten states that do.  I think we’re one of those ten states.”

Another question on voters’ minds is whether or not Pennsylvania’s primary election, held on April 26, 2016, is too late.

Madonna explains that he believes the only time Pennsylvania mattered in the primaries was when Jimmy Carter won the state in 1976. He hasn’t seen Pennsylvania’s relevance since and he sees the lateness of the primaries as a non-issue.

Madonna also explains that the primaries may not end up being too late in the grand scheme of things, as the Republican Party’s plethora of candidates will draw out the process.

“I think there’s an outside chance the nomination struggle could go on into April.”

As far as tonight’s debate goes, Madonna predicts that front-runners Clinton and Sanders will not go after one another, and that the debate will not be centered upon Clinton’s email scandals or Benghazi, but rather on issues involving all candidates.

Tonight’s debate will be broadcasted live onCNNstarting at 9pm.

More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.