Democratic Candidates Make Last Case Before Iowa in CNN Town Hall Tonight

Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders speak simultaneously at their most recent debate, in Charleston, South Carolina, on January 17. They both will attend a CNN town hall, along with former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, in Des Moines, Iowa, on Monday night. Randall Hill/Reuters

A week before the February 1 Iowa caucuses, the three Democratic presidential candidates will get one last chance to state their case and field questions from voters during a prime-time CNN town-hall event on Monday.

In a format different from that of a debate, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley each will appear on stage in sequence for 30 minutes. They will answer prepared questions from CNN’s Chris Cuomo, as well as from a small audience of Iowa Democrats gathered at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. The university and Iowa Democratic Party will co-sponsor the event. The Democratic National Committee (DNC), which backs the party’s debates, will not.

The Democratic race has tightened in recent weeks, as Sanders has gained steam over front-runner Clinton in polls out of Iowa. Recent polls show him with a wide lead over Clinton in New Hampshire, the first-in-the-nation primary state.

Clinton’s increased direct attacks on Sanders’s foreign policy, health care plan and gun voting record highlight the serious threat the senator poses to her campaign. She has accused Sanders of being overly critical of President Barack Obama, simultaneously trying to bolster her case that she is the obvious choice to follow his lead. Meanwhile, Obama praised both Clinton and Sanders during an interview with Politico on Monday, but he dismissed the idea that the Vermont senator’s place in the polls is comparable to the rise of then–Senator Obama in 2008.

Over the weekend, Clinton picked up endorsements from The Des Moines Register, the largest newspaper in Iowa, and The Boston Globe, the biggest paper in New England. Sanders said the decisions by the two editorial boards didn’t surprise him, and that his recent polling success demonstrates how his campaign is taking on the establishment.

Meanwhile, O’Malley has been unsuccessful at breaking through in the two-candidate race. He has been polling at around 5 percent, barely qualifying for the most recent Democratic debate, on January 17. In his ongoing feud with the DNC, he has blamed his flagging campaign on what he has called the party’s “undemocratic” debate schedule.

Cuomo will moderate the two-hour town hall beginning at 9 p.m. Eastern time. The Democrats will face off in their next debate, on February 11, after both the Iowa caucuses and the February 9 New Hampshire primary.

On the Republican side, front-runner Donald Trump and Texas Senator Ted Cruz are neck and neck in the polls. The GOP candidates will face off Thursday in their last debate before the caucuses.