News/Op-ed: Wide Field Narrowing Ahead of Third Democratic Debate

by Tim Levine, Executive Editor

While we are over a year away from the 2020 election and still a few months from the primaries, the Democratic race for the nominee is already beginning to pick up steam. Tonight ten candidates will face off on ABC for the third Democratic presidential primary debate.


These candidates include front runner Joe Biden, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Kamala Harris, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, Senator Cory Booker, Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Senator Amy Klobuchar, and Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro. Although there are another ten candidates still running, with the August 28th polling deadline, the remaining ten candidates have missed the cutoff.

With the crowded stage of ten candidates going on one night, the debate will last for three hours and only include an opening statement, one minute and 15 seconds will be allotted for responding to questions from moderators, and 45 seconds for further follow-up questions and rebuttals.

Following the CNN Town Hall on climate change, the issue should become a leading one in this upcoming debate. While each candidate’s views are fairly similar, there are some key differences when it comes to specific plans, like the use of nuclear energy as an example.

The destruction that Hurricane Dorian has caused recently should also come to the forefront as a topic for the candidates to discuss as well. Other issues that should continue to be debated are healthcare, immigration and gun control. While candidates have discussed these issues in previous debates, the ever-increasing coverage of ICE raids in immigration and the increase in mass shootings should give these issues continued relevance.

The debate should also continue to reflect party divisions between more moderate democrats, such as Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and Pete Buttigieg, to more progressive candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. The moderate vs. progressive theme should become more prominent when Warren and Biden clash specifically, as the one and two candidates in the poll, they have never been on the same debate stage until now.

Candidates, such as Yang, Booker, Klobuchar, O’Rourke and Castro, polling in the 1 to 3 percent range, have a huge opportunity at this debate and one that they have to take advantage of in order to break out and push their polling numbers.

One candidate in particular who is looking to break from this pack is Andrew Yang, a tech entrepreneur who has been gaining momentum online with his innovative ideas on automation and his universal basic income plan. Andrew Yang should plan to become more vocal in this debate, as he has experienced the least amount of talking time even though he is polling in sixth place. Yang may also go after Bernie Sanders, as he has publicly opposed the idea of Yang’s “Freedom Dividend,” a plan for a twelve thousand dollar Universal Basic Income (UBI) for all Americans, and instead is pushing for a Federal Jobs Guarantee program.

This debate should also paint a clearer picture of the race going forward and be a sign for the other ten candidates to dropout. While Tom Steyer and Tulsi Gabbard are one poll away from the October debates, other candidates should realize they can’t gain momentum without this critical media attention.

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