(CNN)Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will appeal directly to voters in Iowa on Monday night during an intimate CNN town hall meeting, as they seek a critical edge in a neck-and-neck race, exactly a week before the first-in-the-nation caucuses.
Watch CNN’s Democratic town hall, airing live from Iowa on Monday, 9 p.m. ET
The rivals, as well as long shot candidate Martin O’Malley, will unveil their final arguments at the town hall in Des Moines, as their campaigns crank up ground games in a state with huge implications for the nominating race.
The forum, at 9 p.m. ET, will showcase the contrast emerging between Clinton, the national front-runner and President Barack Obama’s first secretary of state, and Sen. Sanders, the self-declared Democratic socialist from Vermont who is mounting a stronger than expected challenge.
Clinton bills herself as the only candidate qualified to lock in progressive reforms ushered in by Obama and ready to be commander-in-chief in a dangerous world. Sanders, meanwhile, implicitly suggests that Obama did not go far enough and proposes sweeping new government initiatives on state-run health care, regulating Wall Street and addressing in income inequality.
The candidates will appear one after the other for half an hour each at the town hall meeting at Drake University, which will be broadcast worldwide by CNN, statewide by local television affiliates and live-streamed online and on CNNgo.
Latest polling shows Clinton and Sanders locked in a tight contest in Iowa. In the most recent CNN Poll of Polls, Sanders edges Clinton 46% to 44% in Iowa, with O’Malley at 4%.
But Brian Fallon, spokesman for the Clinton campaign, made the case on Monday that his boss would make an electability argument, speaking to reservations Democrats may have about Sanders’ capacity to win the election and perform effectively as president.
“Hillary Clinton is best positioned to protect the gains we have made under President Obama,” Fallon told CNN’s “New Day.”
He went on: “I think voters are going to contemplate who is the fighter with the tenacity to get results on the issues that keep voters up at night, who can do all aspects of the job, keeping them safe from terrorism but also ensuring the prosperity is shared economically up and down the income ladder.”