The two U.S. Democratic presidential candidates, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, are set to debate for the sixth time Thursday, just two days after Sanders routed Clinton in the party's New Hampshire primary election.
Clinton, the country's top diplomat from 2009 to 2013, once held a commanding lead to be the party's 2016 standard bearer. But political surveys show Sanders has drawn close to her off his campaign targeting growing income inequality in the country and attacks on Clinton's lucrative speech-making to Wall Street corporate titans.
"This country is supposed to be a country of fairness and we're not seeing that," Sanders told one television interviewer.
Clinton is looking to regain her political footing as the Democratic race heads to voting in more racially diverse states than the mostly white states of Iowa, where she edged Sanders, and New Hampshire, where she was out-polled by a 3-to-2 margin.
The western state of Nevada, with Hispanics a quarter of its population, is holding party caucuses on February 20. Another primary election is set a week later in the Atlantic coastal state of South Carolina, where African American voters are expected to play a leading role in the Democratic voting.
Hours before Thursday's debate in the midwestern city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the political fundraising arm of the Congressional Black Caucus endorsed Clinton, calling her "our partner long-term" and "an outspoken advocate" for the group's agenda supporting liberal social programs that benefit blacks.
For his part, Sanders met Wednesday with civil rights leader Al Sharpton in New York as part of a growing outreach toward African American voters.
Republican presidential candidates are focused on South Carolina for their party's primary on February 20.
Front-runner Donald Trump, a billionaire real estate tycoon who easily won the party's New Hampshire primary, unleashed a new television ad in the state, attacking his nearest rival, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, as "the worst kind of Washington insider." Cruz, a conservative firebrand, won his party's Iowa caucuses, finished third in New Hampshire and is expected to draw strong support from South Carolina's large contingent of Christian evangelicals.
"We love God, we're gun owners, military veterans and we're fed up with what's happening in Washington," Cruz told one rally. "The only candidate who can beat Donald Trump is me."
Enlisting a brother’s help
Another Republican presidential hopeful, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, the son and brother of two U.S. presidents, is bringing his older brother, former President George W. Bush, to South Carolina to campaign for him.
As he began his South Carolina campaign, Jeb Bush told supporters that pundits had "written me off in this campaign, over and over again." But he said his fourth-place finish in New Hampshire, behind Trump, Ohio Governor John Kasich and Cruz, has given him a new lease on his political life.
A fifth Republican contender, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, is trying to shake off a fifth place New Hampshire finish and a weak debate performance last week in which he several times repeated his claim, almost word for word, that President Barack Obama has diminished the standing of the United States overseas and changed the shape of the country's domestic policies for the worse.
Rubio vowed to supporters that his flailing debate showing would not be repeated.
He and the other Republican contenders are set to debate again Saturday.
The two parties' state-by-state nomination races are a lead-up to national political conventions in July, where the two presidential nominees will be formally selected. Next November's national election will pick the successor to Obama, who leaves office next January.