After resounding victories over Hillary Clinton in three Western states on Saturday, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is challenging the Democratic front-runner to a debate in delegate-rich New York ahead of that state’s primary next month.
“I would hope very much that as we go into New York state, Secretary Clinton’s home state, that we will have a debate — New York City or upstate, wherever — on the important issues facing New York and, in fact, the country,” Sanders said in an interview with NBC “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd.
Clinton, Sanders and the Democratic National Committee have agreed to a debate in April and another in May. But time and place have yet to be finalized.
Sanders likely has no hope that a New York debate will help him win the state’s April 17 primary. Instead, he’s playing the delegate math game.
Clinton is currently polling at more than 70 percent in New York, which has 247 delegates up for grabs. With 1,712 pledged and unpledged delegates under her belt — versus Sanders’ 1,004 — a big victory in New York will put Clinton within striking distance of the 2,383 she needs to win the party nomination
Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver pressed the issue of a New York debate in a letter to Robby Mook, his counterpart in the Clinton campaign.
“Your campaign has consistently chosen to deny the people of New York the opportunity to see Senator Sanders and Secretary Clinton debate in the Empire State,” Weaver wrote.
“It is difficult to understand your motivation,” he added.
“Can you please explain why New York should not host the April debate? Is the Secretary concerned about debating before the people who twice elected her to the U.S. Senate? Perhaps there is some tactical advantage you are seeking by avoiding a debate in New York but I would remind you that Sen. Sanders agreed to debate the secretary in New Hampshire when he was well ahead in the polls.”