What to Expect on the Second Night of the Democratic Debate
Wednesday night’s Democratic-primary debate in Detroit will, in some sense, be the memorial service of the first phase of the 2020 Presidential race. This is the last time that the front-runners will be forced onto a stage beside challengers polling below levels detectable with mortal instruments. At the next official debates, scheduled for mid-September, the threshold for participation includes receiving two per cent support in four national polls, and also donations from a hundred and thirty thousand unique donors. Only eight of the twenty-one candidates who participated in this week’s debates—Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, Cory Booker, and Andrew Yang—have so far secured a spot in the next round.
On Tuesday, when the first slate of ten candidates at the Detroit debate appeared on stage, the dynamic was lefty front-runners against centrist long shots, with Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren fending off moderator-abetted criticism from the more centrist and anonymous candidates on the stage. On Wednesday night, with another ten candidates debating, there will likely be a similar dynamic among the front-runners and long shots, although, with former Vice-President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris replacing Sanders and Warren, the divisions won’t be as amplified by ideological contrasts. At the June debate, in Miami, Harris had great success in challenging Biden to have a personal conversation about race. It won’t be a surprise if the issue of identity—both national and personal—is once again raised on Wednesday night. Senator Cory Booker, who has been teetering closer to long-shot status these past several months, has been signalling his eagerness to enter the discussion that Harris and Biden had in Miami.
And, of course, there will be those figures who we may not see on such a stage again. If Tulsi Gabbard, Bill de Blasio, Jay Inslee, and the rest of them choose to—and have the resources to—continue their campaigns for the long term, they may have to do so without the benefit of one of the most prominent platforms in the primary process. What will they do with their last chance?
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