Only two Democratic candidates remain, and voters can watch their Town Hall forum streaming live online Wednesday as Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders face the people of New Hampshire in one of two major televised events in the week leading up to that state’s crucial primary election. But unlike in Thursday’s planned Democratic debate, at the Wednesday Town Hall, New Hampshire voters in the live audience will ask questions directly of the two candidates.
A third Democratic presidential candidate, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, dropped out of the race after finishing a distant third in the February 1 Iowa caucuses.
Hillary Clinton won those Iowa caucuses by the slimmest of margins — three-tenths of a percentage point — but she trails Bernie Sanders by a much wider gap in New Hampshire, a state that is not only similar in its demographics to Iowa, but also directly borders on Sanders’ home state of Vermont, where he has been a prominent political figure since 1981, when he became mayor of Burlington, the state’s largest city.
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In the most recent average of major polls, compiled on Tuesday by Real Clear Politics, Sanders was firmly ahead with a lead of 17.5 percentage points. In one individual poll, conducted by the University of Massachusetts, Sanders is crushing Clinton by 29 points.
In other words, Clinton will need a knockout victory in the Democratic Town Hall and subsequent debate to have any hope of finishing even a respectable distance behind in second place, if the polls are accurate.
The New Hampshire Town Hall is scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. Eastern Time, 6 p.m. Pacific, and will be hosted by CNN anchor Anderson Cooper. Pre-forum coverage starts streaming at 8 p.m. Eastern, 5 p.m. Pacific.
The election-predicting site FiveThirtyEight, which uses a sophisticated statistical model to assign probabilities of victory to each candidate in an election, sees Sanders with a 96 percent chance of victory in the February 9 New Hampshire Democratic primary, giving Clinton a minuscule four percent chance of pulling off the upset.
The site projects that Sanders will most likely pull in just under 55 percent of the vote, with Clinton taking 42 percent.
FiveThirtyEight founder Nate Silver, however, believes that even a big victory for Sanders may not be a major turning point in the election.
Those “demographic challenges” are posed by the large bloc of African-American and minority voters in southern states who so far have leaned heavily toward Clinton, and with whom Sanders has not shown he can connect.
“It’s really simple,” Silver explained.
“Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa and Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire are really liberal and really white, and that’s the core of Sanders’s support.”
Clinton, on the other hand, finds her strongest support among older, more moderate Democrats, and among non-white voters. In the next Democratic primary after New Hampshire, South Carolina, where the Democratic primary regularly features a heavy African-American voter turnout, the FiveThirtyEight projections give Clinton a 94 percent chance of victory.
To warm up for the Wednesday night, February 3, event, watch a replay of the January 25 Iowa Democratic Town Hall in the following video.
To find out if Hillary Clinton can score her needed knockout blow, or whether Bernie Sanders holds his own and continues cruising to a New Hampshire primary win, watch the New Hampshire Democratic Town Hall forum live online using the streaming link provided by CNN.go by clicking here. Other links to Town Hall forum coverage can also be found by clicking here, or alternatively, by clicking on this link. The Democratic Town Hall also streams right here, in the first video on this page.
[Photo by Mic Smith/Associated Press]