Biden, Warren, Sanders debate anew for Democratic supremacy

By Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver

All eyes will be on Houston tonight as 2020 Democratic presidential candidates take the debate stage in what is the first time every top-tier candidate will be together, headlined by the trio of former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).  

Biden, the leader of the centrist wing, will be flanked by Warren and Sanders, the top progressives, also marking the first time the sharp ideological divide in the primary will be on full display during a debate.  

As Amie Parnes and Julia Manchester write, Sanders and Warren are likely to approach the debate with a playbook similar to the one they effectively deployed at the second debate in Detroit to fend off attacks from lower-tier centrist candidates: teaming up in defense of their unapologetically progressive platform. However, each will also need to carve out space to stand out at a time when Warren appears to be gaining momentum and energy.  

Biden, strategists maintain, will need to go on offense. While the former vice president has been a staunch defender of a centrist platform, one that delivered former President Obama two terms in the White House, he is at risk of being seen as out of touch as the Democratic Party continues to shift to the left and appears hungrier for new ideas by the day. 

The Associated Press: 7 questions heading into 10-candidate Democratic debate. 

During the showdown at Texas Southern University, Biden will try to put to bed questions about his age and stamina following two previous debate performances that were underwhelming at worst and shaky at best, as Jonathan Easley reports from Houston. 

With tonight’s debate scheduled for three hours, the former VP will attempt to play down his age (76) as a vulnerability along with his reputation for gaffes. Some Democrats believe Biden’s malaprops and inaccurately embellished storytelling could make him an easy target for President Trump, if the three-time White House contender captures the Democratic nod.  

Trump has been vocal about Biden’s mental capacity, telling reporters that the Democratic front-runner is “not playing with a full deck.” Biden will be forced to show tonight that he is ready to do battle next fall with the president.  

For the rest of the field, tonight is a chance to stand out and potentially bust out from mediocre or low poll results. For Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, it’s a chance to reboot their campaigns.  

For Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Andrew Yang and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, it’s an opportunity to deliver a breakout performance and jump from low to middling polling numbers.  

However, it might be the last best chance for former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) to make a dent in the 2020 campaign. Since the dynamic start to his campaign, the former Texas congressman has struggled mightily. He has bottomed out in fundraising and polling, leading some Democrats to call for him to drop out and run for the Senate against Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) — a move he maintains he will not make.  

Additionally, O’Rourke has performed poorly in the first two debates, putting more pressure on him in front of his home state crowd.  

The New York Times: Warren and Biden will finally debate. Here’s what to expect. 

The Wall Street Journal: Democrats make play for Texas’s delegate prize ahead of debate. 

Politico Magazine: ‘Why are you pissing in our face?’: Inside Warren’s war with the Obama team. 

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell: I like Elizabeth Warren. Too bad she’s a hypocrite.

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