71ºF

5 compelling questions for 2nd Democratic candidate debate

For some candidates, this will be last chance to make an impression

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

The second set of debates for Democratic presidential candidates is slated for Tuesday and Wednesday in Detroit, and there will be different moderators and a different format for this debate that will be hosted by CNN than the one hosted by NBC in Miami back in June. 

Here are five compelling questions heading into the Detroit debates. 

RELATED: Here is list of Democratic candidates running for president

Biden-Harris reboot?

Arguably the signature moment from the first set of debates in Miami in the eyes of many observers was a heated attack by Sen. Kamala Harris on former Vice President Joe Biden, the current leader in most polls.

Harris said Biden’s comments about working with lawmakers who are segregationists was “hurtful” and she also criticized Biden for his opposition to school busing.

Biden seemed to be on the defensive, and admitted just more than a week later that he “wasn’t prepared for the person coming at me the way she came at me” during an interview with CNN.

Biden and Harris will be on the stage together during Wednesday’s second night, so odds are good there will be more conversation between the two. 

Sanders-Warren battle?

Unlike the first set of debates in Miami, Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders won’t be debating on the same night.

Sanders is second to Biden in most polls at the moment, with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren trailing behind Sanders in third. Biden and Sanders might not share a stage this time around, but Sanders and Warren will since they are the headline candidates for the first night of the debate Tuesday.

Will this arrangement lead to any significant exchanges between Sanders and Warren? Will either or both get on the offensive toward frontrunner Biden, knowing he can’t offer any on-the-spot rebuttals? 

Can Pete Buttigieg make more of an impression on voters? 

During the first debate in Miami, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg had a quite a cloud hanging over him following the June shooting death of a black man by a white police officer in his town.

He faced criticism from South Bend citizens and was questioned during the debate about the incident that took the life of 54-year-old Eric Logan, admitting that he “couldn’t get it done” when asked why there wasn’t better minority representation in the South Bend Police Department. 

While Buttigieg could face more questions about Logan’s death, the time elapsed could also give moderators more of a reason to ask him about his stance on certain issues, thus giving Buttigieg a better opportunity to convey his ideas. 

Will this be the last we see of many candidates?

Yes. After the first two debates featured 20 of 24 declared candidates (10 on stage each night) based on criteria such as the number of unique donors and position in the polls, the Democratic National Committee recently announced there will only be 10 candidates for the next debate in September.

Candidates must reach 2% or above support in at least four approved polls and at least 130,000 unique donors.

That means there will be a lot of candidates who are likely to drop out between now and then, so the debates in Detroit will be their last appearance in front of a national TV audience. 

What will candidates not doing so well in the polls have to do in order to stand out? 

It's likely there isn't much they can do, given the lack of time to speak -- some candidates had less than five minutes of time to talk during the first debates in Miami beyond opening and closing statements.

This is a dilemma for many candidates who know they need to stand out in some way, but don't want to cross a line by being irritating. One strategy might be to go on the offensive against a candidate doing better in the polls, which worked for Harris against Biden in Miami. Other than that, it will take a creative line or stance on an issue that will stick in the minds of voters. 


About the Author: