Clinton, Sanders face moment of truth: Hillary’s vaunted southern firewall

SMU experts are available for interview on all things debatable in connection with Thursday’s prime time match between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

DALLAS (SMU) – SMU experts are available for interview on all things debatable in connection with Thursday’s prime time match between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. It is currently the only scheduled debate before voters cast their ballots in the Feb. 20 Nevada Caucus, the Feb. 27 South Carolina Primary and Super Tuesday on March 1, when 11 states are up for grabs.



Though Clinton and Sanders are technically tied in states they’ve won (one each), the momentum might look to be heavily in Sanders corner thanks to the narrow loss in Iowa and the big win in New Hampshire.

Now, as the race turns south, Wilson says its time to find out how far Sanders’ campaign can carry.

“Nevada and South Carolina will differ a lot from Iowa and New Hampshire,” Wilson says. “They are much more racially and ethnically diverse, with significant Latino presence in Nevada and an African American majority among South Carolina Democrats.

“This is where we see if the Sanders phenomenon has any legs beyond northern white liberals,” Wilson adds.

Wilson is an SMU associate professor of Political Science who can discuss:

  • religion and politics
  • political psychology
  • voting behavior of religious voters
  • public opinion and politics


When Clinton delivered her New Hampshire concession speech Tuesday night, Martin says the Democratic frontrunner wasted little time hitting on the new themes Clinton’s camp thinks will win the race – themes that will likely play out on the debate stage tonight.

“If you listened to her speech Tuesday, she immediately was talking about Flint,” Martin says. “She was talking past New Hampshire to voters of color who see what’s happening in Flint as an egregious injustice to poor people and especially poor people of color.”

In other words, Martin expects Clinton to see Sanders’ campaign about economic inequality and up the ante by making her campaign message about fighting all kinds of inequality.

When it comes to Sanders, Martin expects the senator to hold his message steady as he approaches Clinton’s so-called “Southern firewall” and attempt to crash through it.

“He will keep repeating the same message about being a man of the people who doesn’t have a Super PAC, who raises his own money by standing with common Americans every day, and who isn’t a member of the billionaire task,” Martin says. “There’s no reason for him to change his message at this point.”

Martin is an SMU assistant professor of Communication Studies in the Meadows School of the Arts who can discuss:

  • economic messages in political campaigns
  • presidential campaign strategy


After months of playing nice, Voth says it’s time for Sanders get tough on Clinton ahead of a potentially momentous South Carolina primary.

“South Carolina is a key test going forward to show Sanders can work the south,” Voth says. “Sanders has been deferential in a way he can’t afford going forward, and Clinton’s probably ready to bring it on, too. So the recipe is there for more conflict in the next debate.”

Voth also expects Sanders to bring up a new line of attack in future weeks - that not only is the economic machine broken, but the political machine is broken, too.

“Sanders won New Hampshire, yet he’s walking away with fewer delegates because of super delegates,” Voth says. “He needs to interrogate the system and I think he will start shaking the system that determines the Democratic nominee.”

Voth is SMU’s director of debate and an associate professor of corporate communications and public affairs can discuss:

  • debate prep
  • debate strategy
  • comparisons between this debate season and the 2012 election’s debate season



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