Tonight is round one of the second Democratic presidential debates. For some, it could be the make or break moment of their campaigns. For poll leaders like Bernie Sanders, it is a chance to try and catch up with Joe Biden. The first debate airs tonight on CNN at 8 p.m. EST, with the second beginning at the same time tomorrow.
The group of ten debating tonight include the oldest and the youngest candidates, a spiritual author, and a new face to the debate stage. The biggest face-off will be between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Two of the most progressive candidates, they will need to clearly show how their very similar views differ.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), 77, is running “for all.” Campaigning in the same style as 2016, he still is calling for a political revolution. He envisions a country built on his personal brand of socialism, guaranteeing health care, college and a job for everyone in America.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), 70, is politically and personally close to Sanders. She has announced more policy proposals than any other candidates, giving Americans the clearest look of what her administration would look like. Much of these plans aim to restructure the economy to benefit everyday people, not the top one percent.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg, 37, is not only the youngest candidate, but the breakout star of the 2020 race. Several town hall appearances on CNN and Fox News pushed the relatively unknown Navy veteran into sixth place. The debate is a chance for him to reach more Americans and share both his unique background and vision of America.
If Buttigieg is the surprise of the race, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, 46, is the biggest disappointment. The outpouring of support for his 2018 Senate race against Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) did not extend to his current presidential campaign. Several missteps and poorly chosen words hurt his run early on and he has struggled to grow since.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), 59, is the most moderate female candidate. She does not believe in universal free college, instead pushing for changes to loan refinancing and forgiveness. She also takes a more pragmatic approach to health care and is against immediately putting everyone on government plans.
Gov. Steve Bullock, 53, (D-MT) is the only new candidate to the debate stage. The governor is using his 2016 win in a state Trump carried that same year as proof he can beat the president in 2020. His signature issues include campaign financing and improving both digital and physical infrastructure.
John Hickenlooper, 67, served as Colorado’s governor from 2011 to 2019. While he is a moderate candidate, he is pushing several progressive ideas. He believes in raising the minimum wage to $15 and free community college. However, he does not support “Medicare for All,” noting that millions of Americans are happy with their current, private insurance plans.
Rep. Tim Ryan (OH-13), 46, has lived in the Rust Belt his entire life, an area Trump dominated in 2016. If president, he plans to invest $50 billion in federal programs to help bridge the gap between affluent and struggling community schools. He also supports protecting family farms and greater access to fresh, healthy food.
Former Rep. John Delaney (MD-6), 56, announced he was running for president two years ago. He has proposed a $2 trillion plan to invest in infrastructure that would be paid for by a corporate tax increase. He has also proposed a Climate Corps that would help rural and under-resourced cities build more environmentally friendly communities.
Marianne Williamson, 67, has the most unique background of all the candidates. She is best known as a non-denominational spiritual author and believes America needs a leader who understands the nation’s heart. One of her more memorable responses in the first debate was, “I’m going to harness love for political purposes.”
Importance of Tonight’s Debate
Tonight may be the last time we hear from several candidates on a debate stage. The third debate, scheduled for September 12 on ABC, will be much harder to qualify than the previous two.
Candidates will need to be above two percent in four polls and have 130,000 individual donors. That is a significant increase from previous debate qualifications. So far, only eight Democratic candidates have the numbers to debate next month.
Lesser-known candidates, such as Delaney, will need to make a major impact tonight to stay viable. Unless polls and donations spike, it will not be surprising if many choose to drop-out in the next few weeks.
Many topics from the June debates will again be addressed. While Bullock is the only new candidate on stage, the remaining 19 are the same. The difference is the line-ups, which gives Warren and Sanders an opportunity to highlight their differences and Klobuchar a chance to showcase her moderate plans against more progressive ideas.
One topic that may be addressed more is gun safety. Three people, including two children, were murdered in a garlic festival shooting June 28. It would not be surprising if candidates used tonight to outline their plan to stop gun violence or condemn the NRA.
Tonight is a chance to make final pitches and square-off against someone new. Popular topics will undoubtedly be health care, college affordability and border security. Free college and health insurance continue to be dominating policy ideas.
Trump will be a major conversation tonight following his past week. The Supreme Court just ruled to allow Trump use of Pentagon funds to build a wall on the US-Mexico border. Mueller, in two US House committee testimonies, again asserted Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.