What to expect in tonight’s Democratic debate

The Democratic candidates face off in Atlanta
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On Wednesday, Democratic presidential candidates will face off in Atlanta in another primary debate. Ten candidates will appear on the debate stage, including former Vice President Joe Biden, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

The two-hour debate is set to begin at 8:00 p.m. CST and will be hosted by MSNBC and The Washington Post. 

Here’s what to look for tonight.

Who’s up?

Tonight’s debate is the first debate that will feature no Texan candidates. Biden and Warren currently poll the best among the Democratic field in Texas, although it is unclear how the polls will shift after Beto O’Rourke’s exit.  

Going into the debate, Biden continues to dominate a sizeable chunk of the Democratic electorate nationally. He stands at least 10 points above any of the other candidates, including Warren (polling at 18 percent) and Sanders (17 percent), suggesting he will likely continue to be the main target of opportunity for the other presidential contenders. 

All other candidates in the race continue to poll in the single digits, although Mayor Pete Buttigieg has broken out of the pack in Iowa with new polls showing him leading in the key state. A major challenge for Buttigieg, however, is winning over the support of black voters, an essential constituency — the essentially voting block— in the Democratic primary. 

Hot issues

This will be the first debate after the beginning of public impeachment hearings. With several key witnesses like Gordon Sondland confirming that there was in fact bribery when it came to the White House-Ukraine relations there’s little doubt impeachment will come up. 

The candidates were asked about impeachment in the last debate and all supported the inquiry. They could be asked tonight if they support moving beyond the inquiry in light of recent revelations. It’s not clear where all of the candidates stand on actually impeaching and removing the president. 

Wednesday’s debate is the first one to take place since Warren released her own Medicare for All spending plan. Questions have dogged her as to how she would pay for her health care plan. Warren has promised her plan will pay for $20.5 trillion in new federal spending by increasing the tax rate of the top 1 percent of Americans and by requiring employers to pay a Medicare contribution instead of paying private insurers. 

Given the debate is set in Georgia, the state Stacey Abrams barely lost last year amid significant voter suppression efforts, the moderators would be negligent, abjectly so, if voting rights weren’t raised tonight. The topic has barely come up in the past debates. 

Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

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