Even though the first primary for the 2020 presidential election is seven months away, campaign season is in full swing with the first debate among Democratic presidential candidates set to take place Wednesday and Thursday in Miami.
Here are five compelling questions, and an overview of the two-day event as candidates prepare to kick off debate season.
Who’s leading in the polls going into first debate?
There are several out there, including polls conducted by USA Today, Fox News, The Hill and Politico to name a few, but the general consensus is that former Vice President Joe Biden is leading the way, with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in second.
The dark horse who is emerging is Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has gained momentum in the polls and is threatening to overtake Sanders.
Behind Biden, Sanders and Warren, the candidates doing best in early polling are California Sen. Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana.
What kind of questions will be asked?
That will mostly be up to the Democratic National Committee and the anchors from NBC, who will moderate. But topics such as gun control, the environment, health care, taxes and abortion laws in certain states will likely come up, as they often do at debates.
How will candidates stand out among the crowd?
It’s hard to even really call this a “debate,” with so many candidates on the stage. There will be very little time, if any at all, for interaction and rebuttals that highlight debates involving two or three candidates.
Given that, each candidate, especially the ones lagging behind in the polls so far, will be looking for a “moment” to distinguish themselves. Whether it’s finding a creative way to bash President Donald Trump or to highlight an issue in a unique tone, candidates will be waiting for the right moment to make an impression.
Why is second night considered the main event going in?
That’s because Biden and Sanders will be appearing on the stage together this night, and there’s already a lot of buzz that will turn into a mini one-on-one debate between the two current front-runners in the polls. Buttigieg and Harris will also be on the stage the second night. Warren will appear on the first night.
Will this debate even resonate with voters?
The first primary where votes will be cast, the Iowa caucus, isn’t until February.
For those who live in northern and eastern states, warm summer weather is finally arriving after a chilly, rainy spring.
Summer vacation is in full swing everywhere, and this is only the first of a scheduled 12 debates. Many candidates appearing on stage will also likely have to drop out of the race over the course of the next few months due to finances and lack of support compared to other candidates.
In other words, there are a lot of reasons to think that this first debate won’t make much of an impact on voters. But given fundraising timelines and the fact candidates won’t get a second chance to make this first impression, it will still be an important kickoff to debate season.
First Democratic presidential debate at a glance
When: Wednesday-Thursday, 9 to 11 p.m. ET
Where: Adrienne Arsht Center, Miami
Format: The current list of 24 candidates was pared down to 20 based on support in polls and amount of unique donors to a campaign. The candidates will be split up into groups of 10 for each night. Wednesday lineup - New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio; New Jersey U.S. Sen. Cory Booker; former HUD Secretary Julián Castro; former Maryland Rep. John Delaney; Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard; Washington Gov. Jay Inslee; Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar; former Texas U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke; Ohio U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan and Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren; Thursday lineup - Colorado U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet; former Vice President Joe Biden; South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; New York U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand; California U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris; former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper; Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders; California U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell; writer and spiritual guru Marianne Williamson and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.
Moderators: NBC anchors Savannah Guthrie, Lester Holt, Chuck Todd, Rachel Maddow and Jose Diaz-Balart.
Up next: Second Democratic presidential debates, July 30-31, Fox Theater, Detroit.