The One Thing About Jane Sanders You Shouldn't Forget

On Sunday night, the three Democratic candidates for president met for their fourth primary debate, and it was a lively and at-times testy affair. It'll also be the last one before Iowa Democrats have to make their big choice in the Feb. 1 caucuses. Naturally, that's causing a lot of attention to be directed on some of the lesser-known areas of the candidates' careers and personal lives. For example: What's the one thing you should know about Jane Sanders, the wife of Vermont senator and hard-charging Democratic challenger Bernie Sanders?

In the event you haven't heard of her before, you probably ought to, because the big thing that's important to know about her is that she isn't some kind of detached, strictly private-life political spouse. Quite the contrary, in fact ― as Jason Horowitz wrote for The New York Times last month, she might just be the second-most politically savvy of the candidates' spouses, trailing only Hillary Clinton's ex-president husband Bill. Through her husband's career in the House and Senate, Jane's been involved at the highest and most influential levels, acting as a personal and political confidant for the Vermont firebrand, and a virtual chief-of-staff.

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This is a very interesting dynamic, especially considering the sky-high levels of political experience the Clinton campaign has at its disposal in the form of Bill Clinton. But that can be something of a double-edged sword ― at first blush, you'd think that Hillary would have the deepest well of spousal political support and acumen in the Democratic race, but in 2008, his presence on the campaign trail caused some trouble. In particular, his multiple controversial attacks and statements about then-Senator Barack Obama caused much more harm than help, and drew accusations of racism from many on the left. This may have created a sense of caution for the Clinton camp. Bill's presence has been dramatically reduced this time around, compared to what it was like at this point during the 2008 primary (although with Hillary's Iowa lead dwindling, he's reportedly now being mobilized).

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Obviously, as a fundraiser, Bill's skills can't be beat ― both he and Hillary have a decades-long donor network at their disposal that they've been able to squeeze millions out of. But as a background adviser, he may not feel quite as much at home as Jane Sanders does. She's never been as out-front a force on the campaign trail as Bill was in 2008, but as she discussed with CNN's Gloria Borger last November, she's acutely aware of the grumpy, gloomy reputation image her husband's dire rhetoric on economic injustice sometimes inspires, and what he needs to do to fix it.

I tell him all the time, you have to bring it back to the hope at the end. But no, he is not grumpy really, just except when the media doesn't pay attention.

Sure, she may not be as high-profile as a former president, but make no mistake: Jane Sanders figures to be a big boon to her husband's campaign, by virtue of her lengthy experience as a political adviser and strategist. And that's just one additional perk to an insurgent campaign that needs every break it can get.