Washington DC - US Democratic presidential candidates are preparing to resume their sparring as they convene in the state of New Hampshire for their third debate on Saturday night.
Since the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, the US presidential campaign has focused heavily on the issue of security.
Much of the spotlight has focused on Republican Donald Trump's comments calling for a ban on Muslims entering the US.
That is why many are now looking to the Democratic candidates to see what distinguishes them on the issues of security and religion.
Andrew Smith, a political strategist, told Al Jazeera that he expects all of the Democratic candidates to criticise Trump for his comments about security and religion.
"That will give an opportunity for Democratic candidates to show they are not Donald Trump and present a much more nuanced picture about religion," he said.
Efforts by the Democratic Party to engineer a drama-free debate have essentially backfired after controversy erupted Friday within the party.
The issue is even making front page headlines in the local New Hampshire newspaper, one of the co-sponsors of tonight's debate.
Earlier, a federal lawsuit was filed by Bernie Sanders, who is currently trailing frontrunner Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination.
The lawsuit was filed after the Democratic Party, or DNC, shut down Sanders campaign's access to confidential voting data. On Saturday, the DNC backed down but it is opening an investigation into the matter.
The action briefly cut off Sanders' campaign from operating, leading to massive howls from his supporters.
|The Sanders campaign faces accusations of accessing voting data that belonged to the Clinton campaign [Al Jazeera]
Sanders has long been viewed as the anti-establishment candidate. His supporters are grassroots and mobilised around opposition to big money in politics.
Sanders' supporters allege the actions of the Democratic Party on Friday confirm what they have long suspected - that the party is engineering the Democratic nominating process in favour of Hillary Clinton, the "inevitable" candidate.
They point to the fact that all three of the six scheduled debates have been held, so far, on weekends when voters are unlikely to be watching. This latest debate comes just days before Christmas.
READ MORE: DNC restores Sanders’ access to voter data
These tensions were likely to seep into Saturday's debate, which was expected to be a mix of foreign policy and domestic issues.
Clinton leads by roughly 30 points in national polls, but Sanders is ahead of her in New Hampshire.
He was expected to come out strong for his supporters in New Hampshire, in an effort to show that while his campaign has until now focused on issues on income inequality and economic populism, he is also strong on foreign policy, where Clinton, as a former secretary of state, has an edge.
Sanders' campaign staff is promising Sanders will, much like the last debate, hit Clinton hard on issues like her vote in the US Senate in 2003 in favour of the US invasion of Iraq.
Unlike the first debate in October, where Clinton kept mostly to script with a polished list of prepared answers on gender inequality and gun control, this debate, may turn out to be more provocative and fiery, something the Democratic Party may have been hoping to avoid.
Source: Al Jazeera