Kirsten Gillibrand’s Fox News Town Hall: What to Watch For

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York is the latest Democratic presidential hopeful to make a controversial pilgrimage in the primary race: headlining a Fox News town hall event.

While some of her rivals for the nomination, like Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, have refused to appear on Fox News because they believe it vilifies Democrats, Ms. Gillibrand’s team sees an opportunity to promote her flagging candidacy on a network that frequently tops the cable news ratings.

Her town hall event, moderated by the “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace and broadcast live from Iowa on Sunday at 7 p.m. Eastern time, comes as Ms. Gillibrand struggles to gain traction in the polls. That is putting her at risk of failing to win a spot in the first primary debate later this month.

Here’s what we’ll be watching for:

The most pressing problem facing Ms. Gillibrand’s campaign may be fund-raising. Though she entered the race with a sizable financial cushion left over from her fairly uncompetitive Senate race last year, she has struggled to win support from a critical mass of Democratic donors in the presidential campaign.

Small-dollar donations are essential to securing a spot in the summer debates and will become even more important in September, by which time candidates must have secured at least 130,000 unique donors to win a place in that month’s face-off.

Given that looming deadline, Ms. Gillibrand is almost certain to try to tap Fox viewers for cash.

Abortion has emerged as a central campaign theme for Democrats in recent weeks, as a series of new restrictions on the procedure have passed in state legislatures this year. Ms. Gillibrand, long a prominent advocate for issues affecting women, has placed herself at the forefront of the debate, hoping that some primary voters may factor the new measures into their decisions about whom to support. Her championing of abortion rights has won her a burst of national media attention.

But will she discuss the deeply personal and divisive issue in front of Fox News’s typically conservative audience?

When she was a House member representing a rural upstate New York district, Ms. Gillibrand took more conservative positions on issues like gun control and immigration — stances she has since said she regrets. Ms. Gillibrand will almost certainly be asked about her political evolution, which has been a liability in the primary race but could be an asset on Fox News.

In campaign appearances, she says her early breaks with liberal orthodoxy gave her an understanding of rural and more conservative voters that will allow her to win a broader range of support in a general election.

Source: NYT

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