Tonight’s Democratic primary debate: what to really expect

If we hadn’t had so many seemingly pointless Democratic primary debates early on, perhaps we wouldn’t be feeling fatigue about the rapid pace of the debates now that they finally matter. Either way, here we are, with our second such debate tonight in about a week. The stakes are higher than ever, and the fireworks will likely be bigger than ever as well. Here’s what to expect tonight:

– Now that Bernie Sanders has won two out of the first three states, the media has all but crowned him the presumptive nominee. This only makes sense if you put no thought into it whatsoever, of course, as the race is still wide open. In any case, now that Sanders has been pushed out front, he’s quickly face-planting by partially praising Fidel Castro and admitting he has no idea how to pay for his pied piper programs. Look for the moderators to finally hit Sanders with tough questions tonight, and look for most or all of the other candidates to absolutely torch him over his worsening scandals. We’ll see how he handles the pressure.

– Mike Bloomberg turned in an absolutely horrible debate performance last time. He’s not the hapless idiot that he came across as being, so this time around it’s nearly a given he’ll perform far better. The question is whether “far better” means he’ll actually sound like he wants to be there and and knows what he’s talking about, or if “far better” will merely mean that he won’t accidentally set his own podium on fire this time. Bloomberg has to turn around the negative narrative about his candidacy, or he won’t recover.

– Joe Biden is leading in every South Carolina poll, by an average of about eight points. If that ends up being the result, Biden will be able to head into Super Tuesday with momentum. He’ll need a solid debate performance tonight in order to help seal the deal in South Carolina. Biden will likely go hard after Sanders’ worsening scandals, and Biden will need to make sure his punches land.

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