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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Democratic Presidential Candidate Debates Begin Tonight

George Wenschhof

When Hillary Clinton announced she would not be running for president in 2020, the question became, who will be the Democratic Party nominee?  Like her or not, Hillary and her husband Bill have an incredibly massive political organization, vast experience and overwhelming name ID, arguably stronger than any of the announced Democratic presidential candidates.  Perhaps, after losing to Barack Obama and Donald Trump, the third time would have been the charm for Hillary.  A video of Hillary running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with tears running down her face and raising her arms in triumph would have created a more human image, possibly propelling her to victory in November.
Instead, over the next two nights, 20 of the now 25 Democratic candidates for president will be showcased to voters in televised debates.  Tonight, the ten candidates to debate are: Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, former Housing Secretary Julian Castro, Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.
Perhaps even more important than actually watching the debate and how candidates respond to the questions and each other, pay close attention to the campaign candidate spin masters.  Often, this is what hits the print and social media.  Candidate staff and surrogates will be hard at work prior to, during and after the debate, doing their best to portray their candidate in the best light.
It is estimated, with the announced debate format of no opening statement, one minute responses, 30 second rebuttals and a closing statement, each candidate will have between 7-10 total minutes over the two hour debate to make their pitch to voters.  There will be five different segments separated by four commercials.  It is always hard for moderators to keep candidates within the time limits so expect to see some candidates exceed their time.
The moderators tonight will be Savannah Guthrie, Lester Holt and Chuck Todd of NBC News, Rachel Maddow of MSNBC and José Diaz-Balart of Telemundo.  The location of the first debate is Miami, Fla., in the Knight Concert Hall of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County. Florida was won by Trump in 2016 but Miami-Dade County is a Democratic stronghold in a state Democrats want to win in 2020.
One of three women candidates appearing tonight, Massachusetts Senator Eizabeth Warren who did not challenge Hillary in 2016 has moved up in the early polling, challenging Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders for candidates appealing to the more progressive wing of The Democratic Party.  Warren is the early polling leader among the candidates appearing tonight and her professorial make up and her numerous plans for policy issues, specifically calling out income inequality across America, may come across well tonight.
I do believe that Warren will pass Sanders after this first round of debates and that Bernie’s ship has sailed in the 2016 election when he was the alternative to Hillary for Democratic voters.
Due to the luck of the draw, this night has been referred to as the second tier candidate debate night because Warren is the only one registering in the top 5 in polls.
However, look to see New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio do very well tonight and possibly win this debate.  He is used to debating, has a good screen presence and a background of supporting and implementing progressive causes.
New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, one of two African American candidates will surely be asked about Joe Biden’s recent comments pertaining to working with people you do not agree with, referencing white segregationists who used the word ”Boy”.  Biden’s refusal to apologize, although he did call and talk with Booker, has not impacted his early polling lead.  So, Booker may be served best by mentioning the offensive manner of using this example and pivot to his position on other issues and defeating Trump.  Booker has been lagging far behind in the early polling so this is an opportunity for him to build his case to voters.
Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, an early favorite of mine, fell flat after her announcement outdoors in the middle of a blizzard.  Demonstrating her grit was admirable, but questions pertaining to how she treats her staff have impacted her and she has also failed to register in polls.  A good showing tonight would allow her to reset her campaign.
Housing Secretary Julian Castro is another early favorite of mine who has struggled to get traction in his campaign.  He is another candidate, like Warren, who actually has specific plans for his position on issues.  He typically speaks in a measured tone, so I would expect his staff would be encouraging him to show some emotion and spark tonight.  I wanted Hillary to pick him instead of Virginia Senator Kaine for her vice president and still feel he may have pulled enough votes to have helped her win in 2016.  He is a solid candidate but needs to elevate his game quickly or face fading away.
Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio is certainly from a much needed state, but his moderate approach to issues will likely fall flat tonight.  Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas has fallen off the radar after a highly hyped announcement following his close senate race and loss in Texas.  Beto has already reset his campaign with no noticeable result so he also risks being an also-ran very soon if he does not do well tonight.
Former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee are all already on life support so they will definitely need a “Hail Marry” moment tonight to jumpstart their campaigns.  Out of these three candidates, Inslee at least has the issue of climate change as the integral aspect of his campaign.
It promises to be a good debate to watch so plan to tune in beginning 9:00 PM ET on NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo.

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