Get ready for America to shine its presidential campaign spotlight on Michigan for the second time in less than a week! The stage is set for Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders to debate once again. But the backdrop for this political forum will be much different than last Thursday’s Republican war-of-words inside Detroit’s majestic Fox Theatre.
Tomorrow evening’s debate will be televised internationally on CNN beginning at 8 p.m. EST inside Flint’s Whiting Auditorium. The popular cultural arts theater is a throwback to the city’s historic importance. The Whiting was opened in 1967 and is named in memory of James H. Whiting, an early pioneer of the auto industry and one of the founders of Flint Wagon Works. In 1903 he persuaded his partners to buy the Buick Motor Car Company in Detroit and move it to Flint. And the rest, as they say, is history.
That rich national prominence is a far cry from a city that is now in the national news because of its lead contaminated water controversy ignored far too long by government officials and environmental experts. Even though the Flint water crisis was addressed briefly in the most recent GOP debate, you can bet that the topic will be front and center tomorrow night. Clinton and Sanders will almost certainly use it as a difference between what would be their priorities as president versus the GOP candidates.
But they will also attempt to show the difference between their own campaigns. From healthcare changes to the best way to curve gun violence, which Washington insider is the most progressive? A new and “exclusive” WXYZ-TV 7/Detroit Free Press Poll shows that Michiganders give Clinton only a three point edge over Sanders on the “progressive” question. But the former U.S. Secretary of State beats Sanders handedly, 72% - 17%, on who Democratic voters in this state think has the best chance of beating a Republican nominee in November.
If U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders is going to keep front-runner Clinton from dominating him in the Democratic presidential delegate count, he needs to take his fight to her in Flint and make a good showing on Tuesday in Michigan.