There’s no worse sign for a first-term president than when politicians in the opposing party are lined up around the block to run against him, because he’s perceived as just that beatable. That’s where Donald Trump finds himself right now, as the Democrats have so many 2020 candidates, they’ve had to split their first debate over two nights just to make everyone fit. Tonight is the first night of the first debate, and while Trump will be frequently mentioned, tonight isn’t really about him.
Because the first debate has been split across two nights, the semi-random draw has resulted in an interesting lineup tonight. Actually, on first blush, “interesting” might not be the first word that comes to mind when it comes to tonight’s candidates. Clear frontrunner Joe Biden, distant second place Bernie Sanders, viable candidate Kamala Harris, and surprise upstart Pete Buttigieg are all appearing tomorrow. In terms of poll numbers, no one on tonight’s stage – apart from Elizabeth Warren – is even currently in contention. But that’s essentially tonight’s point.
Tonight’s debate is an opportunity for Elizabeth Warren, who has firmly climbed into third place, and who has recently climbed into second place in a few polls, to shine. If she dominates tonight, she could see a notable spike in her numbers, and perhaps climb into second place. Tonight is also an opportunity for some high profile candidates who are off to a disappointing start in the polls – like Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, and Beto O’Rourke – to get back on track. It also means that some of the least known candidates will get a chance to finally make a name for themselves.
In other words, because arguably four of the five most viable candidates randomly ended up being assigned to tomorrow night, it’s created a potential vacuum tonight – and someone will fill it. We’re not going to make any predictions on which of tonight’s candidates is going to end up stealing the spotlight. But someone will, and that candidate will benefit greatly from it.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report