TRUMP: ‘It just seems very boring, but I’m going to watch it…’
(AFP) Ten Democratic White House hopefuls face a significant early test of their presidential timber Wednesday in America’s biggest political debate in years, with Elizabeth Warren center stage arguing that her progressive policies can defeat incumbent Donald Trump.
Millions of voters are expected to watch the two-night affair in Miami, with the climax on Thursday as former vice president Joe Biden — in his third White House bid but taking the debate stage as frontrunner for the first time — squares off against number two candidate Bernie Sanders and others.
Despite the feverish political climate in Washington and candidates campaigning heavily in early voting states, many in the American heartland will be focusing on the 2020 race for the first time Wednesday.
The candidates know the process is an 18-month marathon, but each will want to walk off stage with a victory, perhaps a viral moment that advances their cause, draws new donors, and propels them to the next debate in July.
Wednesday’s showdown is Warren’s to lose. As the night’s highest-polling candidate, she squares off against fellow senators Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar, ex-congressman Beto O’Rourke, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Washington Governor Jay Inslee, and San Antonio ex-mayor Julian Castro, the only Latino in the race.
More than any other candidate, Warren, 70, has given a clear picture of her presidential priorities, and she could have space to flesh out her ideas without the complication of debating the two older white men who lead her in the polls.
She has unveiled plans to institute a wealth tax and universal child care, break up big tech companies, erase student loan debt for millions of Americans, and end for-profit prisons.
Hours before the debate, Warren highlighted the border crisis and rising public alarm over detention conditions for migrant children by visiting a migrant detention facility in Homestead, Florida.
“What is happening as the direct result of activities of the United States government is wrong,” she said outside the facility, after hugging dozens of women and children protesting the conditions inside.
“It is a stain on our country, and we must speak out.”
Klobuchar, who called Homestead the nation’s largest location for detaining immigrant children, said she too would visit Wednesday.
Attack Biden, or Trump?
Many Americans will be watching more carefully on Thursday, when Biden, 76, and Sanders, 77, are the headliners.
But Biden’s presence will loom over both evenings, as will Trump himself.
Biden’s 19 rivals must decide whether they fire broadsides at the Democratic frontrunner, or make nice and collectively train their anger on the president, whom many of the candidates have said should face impeachment proceedings.
Thursday’s Biden-Sanders clash could be a fierce battle of the old guard, two 70-something icons presenting competing visions for America.
Biden is an ideological moderate whose centrist approach could win over white male voters, while Sanders, a Democratic socialist, is counting on a “political revolution” of economic populism, including a demand for Medicare for all, winning the day.
The pair will face up-and-comers like Senator Kamala Harris, the only black woman in the race; Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who has made women’s issues the thrust of her campaign; and dark horse Andrew Yang, an entrepreneur who has never run for office.
Also in the mix Thursday will be South Bend, Indiana’s 37-year-old gay Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who faces a crisis of confidence in his city after the fatal shooting of a black man by a white police officer.
The debates air at 9:00 pm EDT each night on NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo.
Trump acknowledged that, despite flying to Asia late Wednesday, he will tune in from Air Force One.
“It just seems very boring, but I’m going to watch it,” he told Fox, as he bashed his leading rival.
“Biden is a lost soul,” Trump said. “He doesn’t know where he is.”
© Agence France-Presse