Once again, a last minute turn of events is shaking up a Democratic presidential debate. Last time around, it was the Paris terrorist attacks. Now, the candidates will be facing off amid an unusual level of acrimony over claims that Bernie Sanders staffers stole data that belonged to Hillary Clinton’s camp. Now the big question is how the issue will play in Saturday night’s debate.
Clinton could very well choose to go on the offensive and confront Sanders about the breach. But that carries risk considering Sanders’ team filed a lawsuit against the Democratic National Committee because it had suspended the campaign’s access to voter information after the breach was revealed. Access was restored late last night, but not before Sanders’ supporters got even more ammunition to claim that the DNC unfairly favors Clinton, as Slate’s Jim Newell points out. Immediately after the data controversy, Sanders sent out a fundraising email, citing the suspension as the latest example of how the Democratic Party has "its thumb on the scales in support of Hillary Clinton's campaign."
So if Clinton goes too far with her criticism it could play into Sanders’ underdog image, which could in turn help him win over support. This is particularly the case considering the Sanders’ team has complained the DNC scheduled the debate for the Saturday night before Christmas to assure a low audience, points out Yahoo News.
Considering all these variable it seems more likely that Clinton will decide to strike a middle ground and criticize Sanders’ staffers while defending the candidate himself, notes NBC.
The candidates could also choose to play it down, particularly considering the data breach controversy seems to hurt everyone involved. The Guardian explains:
The Sanders campaign has undermined its efforts to be seen as a moral crusade against “the millionaire and billionaire class”, through actions by campaign staffers that even seen in the most favorable light were clearly opportunistic and unwise.
The DNC has appeared to be biased and undermined the confidence campaigns need to have in the national party.
And, of course, Clinton is hurt too. After months of dealing with an email scandal from her tenure at as secretary of state, this provides an unwelcome reminder of a problem that she had thought buried after her 11-hour testimony at the congressional hearing on Benghazi in October.