5 Crucial Issues Bernie Sanders Should Emphasize At The Democratic Debate To Stay Relevant

Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and Martin O'Malley are prepping for Sunday's Democratic debate and with just two weeks left before the Iowa caucus kicks off primary season, the competition has never had higher stakes. Sanders and Clinton, his primary opponent, have been neck and neck in Iowa for weeks, and if Sanders can pull off the caucus win, it could mean a new era for his campaign. He needs a stellar debate performance in Charleston, South Carolina, but there are certain issues Bernie Sanders needs to address at the debate to stay well positioned for a win.

Fears about Sanders' campaign have plagued the mainstream media for months now — he's too liberal, he doesn't have the right experience, he's fighting a losing battle. But Sanders has consistently defied the odds. He has Clinton beat in New Hampshire and running scared in Iowa, and there's still time to strengthen his position even further. This last debate before primary season starts needs to dispel all remaining doubts about Sanders' ability to lead.

Sanders is ahead of Barack Obama's polling position when he was facing off against Clinton for the nomination in 2008, so that's a strong indicator that Sanders is absolutely still a contender. However, he still needs to blow the competition away at this debate on Sunday, while addressing his weaknesses and building on his strengths.

Foreign Policy

It's the hot button issue on everyone's mind, especially given the recent situation with the American sailors in Iran. There's a pervasive idea that Sanders doesn't have enough foreign policy experience to be an effective Commander In Chief, and that conception must change in order for Sanders to be seen as a viable candidate. If Sanders can really whoop Clinton in a foreign affairs tussle on Sunday night, it will go a long way toward earning that caucus win.

Campaign Finance

One of the strongest pillars of Sanders' campaign is his mensch reputation. He's a Washington insider, but he's managed to stay true to his ideals and morals throughout his lengthy career. Emphasizing his difference to other politicians by highlighting his own campaign finance strategy and his commitment to changing campaign finance laws will keep that pillar strong.

Black Lives Matter

The issue has been fading a bit in the media in recent weeks, but if Sanders finds a strong way to work it into the debate, it could be huge. Last minute campaigning and endorsements from racial justice community leaders could make the difference between a win and a loss in Iowa.

Gun Control

Sanders has come under scrutiny for his gun control beliefs, which pretty starkly contrast the majority of his socialist politics. The senator from Vermont often cites his rural home state as justification for his more conservative gun control policy, but he might need to take a much harder stance on guns in order to swing the nomination.

Political Engagement

Sure, it's not likely that unregistered voters will go out of their way to watch the debate on a Sunday night. But even if Sanders can swing that one voter to get registered and vote for him in the caucus, it's ground that he needs to gain on Clinton.

The good thing about a smaller debate field is more talking time, so Sanders shouldn't have too much of a challenge focusing on all these issues during the debate. If he can address these issues impressively and decisively, his caucus win could become a lock.