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The Lid: Dem Debate Coming At Pivotal Time

Welcome to The Lid, your afternoon dose of the 2016 ethos… With the race neck-and-neck and the rhetoric running hotter than ever, we're pretty excited about Sunday's Democratic debate on NBC. That, plus the fact it gives Larry David another chance to do his Bernie Sanders impression.

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'16 from 30,000

It's (almost) here! The first Democratic debate of 2016 will take place at 9 p.m. Sunday on NBC. And it's hard to imagine a more interesting time for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders to come face-to-face. (Martin O'Malley will be there too!) Just take a look at the storylines from just this week: An NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll released Sunday found Clinton edging out Sanders by just three points in Iowa, with Sanders holding a four-point lead in New Hampshire. Since then, the rhetoric between the two sparring camps has escalated almost daily, especially when it comes to the two issues we'll be particularly interested in Sunday -- guns and health care. The Clinton camp has long viewed Sanders' voting record on guns a vulnerability, but health care was thrust into the spotlight after Chelsea Clinton said Sanders would dismantle Obamacare. And Sanders this week put out his most negative ad yet, contrasting Democrats' view of Wall Street without mentioning Clinton. So, with about two weeks before the caucuses, will Sanders really go on the offensive? And how does Clinton handle such a challenge from a once unimaginable threat?

POPPING ON NBC POLITICS

FOR THE RECORD…

"They go to fancy balls wearing the hats."

- Donald Trump on women wearing his "Make America Great Again" hats

WEEKEND SKED

Saturday: Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and Bill and Chelsea Clinton are in Iowa.

All three Democratic candidates are in South Carolina, as are Trump, Cruz and Huckabee.

Donald Trump also makes a morning stop in New Hampshire, where Rand Paul will be campaigning.

On Sunday: Clinton, Sanders, Rubio and Bush are all on "Meet The Press."

And at 9 p.m. on NBC: Democratic presidential candidates will square off for their fourth debate on NBC at 9 p.m.