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Tones harden as Clinton girds for faceoff with rising star Sanders near his turf

AP

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders meet Thursday night in their first one-on-one debate of the Democratic campaign as each tries to show they are the better advocate for progressive values.

The race for the Democratic nomination, once seen as a sure thing for Clinton, took on new energy this week after Sanders held the former secretary of state to a razor-thin margin of victory in Iowa’s leadoff caucuses.

Their comments have become increasingly sharp this week, and the candidates agreed to add four more debates to the primary season schedule, including Thursday’s in New Hampshire.

The candidates are arguing over who is more committed to, and capable of, carrying out a liberal agenda on health care, income inequality, worker rights and more.

Sanders is favored in New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation Feb. 9 primary as the state-by-state voting to collect delegates for the party’s nominating convention picks up speed.

Sanders, a senator from neighboring Vermont, said Wednesday that Clinton’s record is “just not progressive,” including her vote as a senator to authorize the war in Iraq.

Clinton said she has the ability to actually implement progressive changes. “Good ideas on paper are important, but you’ve got to be able to translate them into action,” she said.

Sanders cast himself as an underdog going up against “the most powerful political organization in the country.” He says it will take a “political revolution” to achieve goals such as universal health care, a fairer tax system and an incorruptible campaign finance system.

Clinton’s prospects are much stronger after New Hampshire as the race moves on to states with more diverse electorates that are to her advantage.

Thursday’s debate will be the first faceoff for Clinton and Sanders since former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley dropped out of the race after a poor showing in Iowa on Monday.

Clinton’s razor-thin win in Iowa was the latest twist in an election campaign that, until recently, had been overtaken by the unusually crowded Republican field. Its candidates, who are scheduled to meet again in a debate Saturday, took New Hampshire by storm ahead of the primary. Donald Trump, who finished second in the Iowa caucuses, took fresh aim Wednesday at caucus winner Ted Cruz, the firebrand Texas senator who appears to be running behind in New Hampshire, and is hoping for momentum to carry him into South Carolina later this month.

Cruz’s campaign manager, Jeff Roe, says it has raised $3 million since winning in Iowa. Roe says the campaign has raised $10 million overall since the beginning of the year. That includes 182,000 individual contributions averaging $55 each.

Cruz was enjoying a big fundraising advantage over his Republican rivals even before the new numbers were released.

For other Republicans, like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, New Hampshire may be their last stand as they try to chisel establishment support away from Florida’s junior Sen. Marco Rubio, who finished a strong third in Iowa.

The Democrats next meet on Feb. 11, then on March 9 for a debate that has long been on the schedule. Under an agreement announced Wednesday, there will also be another March debate and two debates in April and May on dates still to be determined.