Sanders likely to sharpen Clinton attacks during Democratic debate

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When Democratic rivals Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders take the stage in a presidential debate on Saturday, Sanders is likely to be more aggressive than in their first debate as he highlights their differences on issues like reducing income inequality.

When they faced off last month, Sanders was restrained in challenging Clinton and got a grateful handshake from her when he said voters were "sick and tired" of the controversy over her use of private email as secretary of state.

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This encounter will be different.

"He's not necessarily looking for a fight, but he does have some differences with her on issues and he intends to talk about those," said Tad Devine, a senior adviser to Sanders.

Sanders has turned up the heat on Clinton on the campaign trail, questioning her sincerity and trustworthiness after she reversed course to join ranks with him and other opponents of the Asian trade pact and Keystone XL pipeline.

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Sanders likely to sharpen Clinton attacks during Democratic debate
MILWAUKEE, WI - FEBRUARY 11: Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (L) and Hillary Clinton participate in the PBS NewsHour Democratic presidential candidate debate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on February 11, 2016 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.The debate is the final debate before the Nevada caucuses scheduled for February 20. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
DURHAM, NH - FEBRUARY 04: Democratic presidential candidates former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) during their MSNBC Democratic Candidates Debate at the University of New Hampshire on February 4, 2016 in Durham, New Hampshire. This is the final debate for the Democratic candidates before the New Hampshire primaries. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 13: Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (L) and Hillary Clinton take part in a presidential debate sponsored by CNN and Facebook at Wynn Las Vegas on October 13, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Five Democratic presidential candidates are participating in the party's first presidential debate. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, left, and Hillary Clinton, former U.S. secretary of state, participate in the first Democratic presidential debate at the Wynn Las Vegas resort and casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015. While tonight's first Democratic presidential debate will probably lack the name-calling and sharp jabs of the Republican face-offs, there's still potential for strong disagreements between the party's leading contenders. Photographer: Josh Haner/Pool via Bloomberg
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 13: Democratic presidential candidates U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (L) and Hillary Clinton shake hands at the end of a presidential debate sponsored by CNN and Facebook at Wynn Las Vegas on October 13, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Five Democratic presidential candidates are participating in the party's first presidential debate. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 13: Democratic presidential candidates U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (L) and Hillary Clinton take part in a presidential debate sponsored by CNN and Facebook at Wynn Las Vegas on October 13, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Five Democratic presidential candidates are participating in the party's first presidential debate. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 13: Democratic presidential candidates U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (L) and Hillary Clinton take part in a presidential debate sponsored by CNN and Facebook at Wynn Las Vegas on October 13, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Five Democratic presidential candidates are participating in the party's first presidential debate. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 13: (L-R) Democratic presidential candidates U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Hillary Clinton and Martin O'Malley take part in a presidential debate sponsored by CNN and Facebook at Wynn Las Vegas on October 13, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Five Democratic presidential candidates are participating in the party's first presidential debate. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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But with Clinton well ahead in polls, the Vermont senator is preparing to engage her on other policy differences as well. Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, told the Boston Globe last week that he disagrees with the more moderate Clinton on "virtually everything."

Devine said he "wouldn't be surprised" if Saturday's debate was more testy.

"He really wants to have a debate on the issues," Devine said, citing campaign finance, college affordability and climate change as other topics where he could draw distinctions with Clinton.

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"But if there is conflict, if anybody questions him or goes after him on an issue, he'll be prepared to engage," he said.

The debate in Des Moines, Iowa, will be televised by CBS News and begins at 9 p.m. EST. Clinton, Sanders and Martin O'Malley, the former Maryland governor, will participate.

Former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee and former Virginia Senator Jim Webb dropped out after the first debate.

The encounter follows a good month for Clinton. A strong performance in the first debate and a forceful 11-hour appearance before a congressional panel probing the Benghazi attack calmed Democratic fears after a summer of controversy over her emails.

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Clinton also was buoyed by Vice President Joe Biden's decision not to launch a White House bid against her.

Polls show Clinton now has a commanding double-digit lead over Sanders nationally and in Iowa, which holds the first nominating contest on Feb. 1. O'Malley trails well behind, registering in single digits.

(Editing by Christian Plumb)

SAP is the sponsor of this coverage which is independently produced by the staff of Reuters News Agency.

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