5 Things To Watch For In Tonight’s Democratic Presidential Debate
The Big Show begins tonight.
Ten Democrats will face off in the first of two debates in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. (Don’t forget — President Trump teased the idea that he might live tweet the debate, so keep your fingers crossed.)
The lineup for the two-hour debate No. 1 — on NBC at 9 p.m. EDT — will be:
Cory Booker, senator from New Jersey
Julián Castro, former housing secretary
Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York
John Delaney, former representative from Maryland
Tulsi Gabbard, representative from Hawaii
Jay Inslee, governor of Washington
Amy Klobuchar, senator from Minnesota
Beto O’Rourke, former representative from Texas
Tim Ryan, representative from Ohio
Elizabeth Warren, senator from Massachusetts
Here are five things to watch for:
SOCIALIST PROGRAMS ON DISPLAY
Among the 24 Democrats vying for the nomination, the word of the day is “socialism.”
The White House wannabes have been battling each other by seeing who can promise more free stuff. Sen. Elizabeth Warren wants to eliminate all tuition at public colleges and pay off (with taxpayer money, mind you) all student debt. Cost: $1.25 trillion. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All,” co-sponsored by four other 2020 hopefuls — a few on tonight’s stage — would require $32 trillion in government spending. Sen. Kamala Harris’s plan to raise teacher pay and Sen. Cory Booker’s proposal to offer affordable housing cost hundreds of billions. Some night even endorse Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s “Green New Deal,” with a price tag of $93 trillion over 10 years.
Who will unveil a new plan tonight? Who will kowtow to the liberal base by boldly embracing socialism?
A father and daughter from El Salvador died last week trying to cross the Rio Grande to illegally enter the United States. While the story is a true tragedy that, more than anything, exposes the very real crisis at the border — a crisis President Trump has been trying to address while congressional Democrats drag their feet — the presidential candidates on stage tonight will seek to capitalize on their tragic deaths for political gain.
O’Rourke has already written on Twitter: “Trump is responsible for these death.” Warren, too, said, “We are better people than this. … A government that can’t tell the difference between a threat posed by a terrorist, a criminal, and a little girl, is not a government that is keeping us safe. Booker, too, cashed in: “We should not look away,” Booker tweeted Tuesday night. “These are the consequences of Donald Trump’s inhumane and immoral immigration policy. This is being done in our name.”
But look for their plans — their real plans — to address the crisis at the border. They’ll no doubt blame Trump — but what do they plan to do to solve the problem?
THE HOSTS AND FORMAT
NBC announced there will be five anchors moderating the debates. Lester Holt will moderate both hours. He will be joined by Savannah Guthrie from the “Today” show, and Jose Diaz-Balart from “Noticias Telemundo” for the first hour. Rachel Maddow — yes, that very fair and unbiased “journalist” — along with Chuck “Sleepy” Todd of “Meet the Press” will join Holt for the second hour.
According to NBC News, the 10 candidates will have 60 seconds to answer questions and 30 seconds to respond to follow-ups. No opening statements allowed, but they will deliver closing remarks at the end of the debate.
So watch for the real follow-up questions (since this isn’t CNN, Donna Brazile hasn’t fed the candidates the questions, like she did for Hillary Clinton in 2016.). When a candidate says, “I’m for free everything for everybody,” will the moderators ask the simple follow-up: “Uh, how you gonna’ pay for that?”
THE GUY NOT ON THE STAGE
No, not Donald Trump. Everyone will be whining about him nonstop. But first they’ll have to win the nomination, and so they’ll be — subtly, we’re guessing — targeting Joe Biden.
Of course, no Democrat will talk about his creepy behavior and all the women he’s touched inappropriately, so they’ll have to go after his policies. Sadly for them, Biden hasn’t really laid out anything, so there’s not much to go after (and he’s already flip-flopping like a wind-surfing John Kerry). Plus, if they don’t win the nomination, don’t they just want to be on the ticket? Watch the candidates walk the tightrope: Tough on Biden, to a point, but they’re also auditioning for a job as veep — especially Castro and O’Rourke.
THE DESPERATION FACTOR
Yes, most of the people on stage are running for vice president. They’re young, Hispanic, female — the perfect match for a 76-year-old white guy at the top of the ticket. O’Rourke was the talk of the illiterati after he lost by a hefty margin in Texas against Sen. Ted Cruz. He’s Kennedyesque, said the swooners. Castro is from Texas, and like O’Rourke, might be able to flip the purple state to blue. Sen. Amy Klobuchar wants to be in the mix, and the likely nominee might really benefit by picking a woman.
They’ll all be looking that viral moment, like that time an upstart candidate said to debate moderator Jon Green, who had instructed the sound technician to cut off his microphone, “I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Green!”
That candidate was Ronald Reagan.
So, strap in.
But don’t expect much talk about the economy — that’s going gangbusters. And that — everyone on the stage tonight knows — is what decides elections. Watch them steer clear of that subject at any cost.