In tonight’s Democratic debate, the candidates covered a variety of issues, from war to healthcare to the opiate epidemic to the role Bill Clinton might play in a hypothetical Hillary administration. But again and again, Bernie brought his answers back to economics: the role of Wall Street and big money in politics; the plight of poor Americans; the impact of material privation on crime and addiction. Sanders reemphasized this focus in his closing statement, where he excoriated Citizens United, called for a “political revolution” that would benefit all Americans regardless of wealth, and railed against the corruption of current campaign financing.
Why, when Clinton and O’Malley seem comfortable covering a range of topics, does Sanders stick so close to his central message?
The answer might come from Sanders’ early-debate explanation of how he intends to pick up black and Latino voters: name recognition. Sanders is right that he is far less known among minority voters than Clinton, and therefore what distinguishes his platform from hers is also less well known. By emphasizing the animating concern of his campaign during debates, Sanders might bore pundits who’ve watched him for months, but it also gives him a chance to introduce himself to prospective voters who may never have encountered him before.