Live From Atlanta: Five Things We’ll Be Monitoring In Tonight’s Democratic Debate

WESTERVILLE, OHIO - OCTOBER 15: South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden shake hands after the Democratic Presidential Debate at Otterbein University on October 15, 2019 in Westerv... WESTERVILLE, OHIO - OCTOBER 15: South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden shake hands after the Democratic Presidential Debate at Otterbein University on October 15, 2019 in Westerville, Ohio. A record 12 presidential hopefuls are participating in the debate hosted by CNN and The New York Times. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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The top 10 Democratic presidential candidates will take the stage on Wednesday night at 9 p.m. ET, giving us a clearer picture of the tone candidates plan to adopt in the 11 weeks leading up to the Iowa caucuses, as well as what sort of impact the public, explosive impeachment hearings will have on 2020 Democrats’ messaging.

Tonight, from Atlanta, we’ll hear from former Vice President Joe Biden, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), as well as Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, entrepreneur Andrew Yang and billionaire investor Tom Steyer.

Here are five key things we’ll be monitoring:

Biden, the lingering frontrunner

While polling has been lackluster for Biden in Iowa and New Hampshire in recent weeks, and others — namely Warren and Buttigieg — have risen in those crucial states, Biden’s strength among African American’s in South Carolina is unparalleled.

Biden’s been the presumed frontrunner since he entered the election, but he’s made a few missteps and now has a few rivals at his heels. Now, as President Trump’s push for an investigation into Biden and his son sits at the center of a near-daily intensifying impeachment inquiry, we’ll be watching to see if this debate cements his frontrunner status or allows his top rivals to chip away at his lead.

Will Sanders break his truce with Warren?

While Sanders and Warren have largely stuck to their agreement to avoid going after each other during previous debates, Sanders has a unique pathway to criticize his Capitol Hill ally tonight. In recent days, Warren released a Medicare for All transition plan that essentially breaks down the implementation of such a plan into two separate legislative phases. The plan has been dragged by some on the left for what’s been perceived as slow rolled enactment.

Sanders has maintained for years that he would fund his Medicare for All plan with new progressive income taxes and could ding Warren with the use of his status as the only candidate who’s vowed to implement the change at the launch of his presidency.

Meanwhile, Biden apparently intends to tear into Warren’s plan on Wednesday evening, a move he and Buttigieg made when she first released her proposal in the days after the last debate.

How will Harris try to hang on?

At a Democratic candidate forum in her home state — where pro-Harris energy was a far-cry from the senator’s explosive presidential announcement in her hometown earlier this year — California Democrats speculated whether it might be time for Harris to throw in the towel, Politico reported. Mired by reports of campaign infighting and a lack of cohesive policy, as well as drastically dropping polls, Harris will be someone to watch tonight. We’ll be monitoring how she attempts to make herself stand out.

Buttigieg’s new-found fame

Since the candidates last met in October, no one has seen as much growth in popularity as Buttigieg. According to a recent CNN/Des Moines Register poll, the South Bend mayor has a nine-point lead over his closest rival, Warren. In another poll conducted by Monmouth University, Buttigieg maintained that top-dog momentum — he’s the preferred candidate among 22 percent of those surveyed.

But with new found-fame comes new-found scrutiny. We’ll be monitoring not only who digs their claws into Mayor Pete, but also how he responds.

More viral moments?

Second-tier candidates like Gabbard, Klobuchar and Booker will likely look for any chance they can take to gain some new traction with viewers tonight. We’ll be watching for those desperate maneuvers.

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