Time: 7-10pm central time
How to watch: ABC News, ABC13 -Houston, Univision, streaming on ABCNews.com. The Texas Signal will be covering the debate.
Primary voting is less than six months away. Soon, the race will (finally) be whittled down from 10+ candidates to the top few, and tonight’s debate will help usher that process along. Here’s what we’ll be looking for tonight.
1.How the top three candidates — Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders— mix it up with each other. Who has the smarts and skill to beat Trump? Policy plans are a must but they don’t win elections on their own. Who has the discipline to execute a strategic plan — even if it’s to purposefully get out of Trump’s way? Trump, writes Obama’s chief strategist this morning, is his own worst enemy.
2. What will be the issue focus? Gun violence, health care, immigration, fracking, voting rights, and the economy (farmers in Texas are nervous about the president’s trade war) are the major issues in Texas, just as most are nationally. And the Supreme Court last night issued an order effectively closing our southern border to nearly all Central American asylum seekers.
3. It’s the first time in decades Texas is a purple state. It’s hard to see how that goes unaddressed tonight by the two Texans in the race, both of whom have said they can win Texas’ 38 electoral votes. But are the top-tier contenders also serious about winning Texas?
4. Speaking of the two Texans, both need standout performances tonight to pick up some momentum. O’Rourke and Castro are hovering in low single digits.
5. Will the second tier of candidates Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg make their mark in a way that gives them more longer-term staying power in the race? Both are waiting in the wings closer to the moderate wing of the party in case Biden’s support tanks.
6. In light of John Bolton’s firing, will national security/foreign policy finally make an appearance on the debate stage?
7. How many times will ABC News need to use the bleep button, if, or when, O’Rourke drops the f-bomb? He has increasingly used colorful language on the campaign trail to hit his point home.
8. Will the press allow the Trump campaign to steal coverage with his ad bender, or erratic tweeting during the debate? It’s the Democrats’ party tonight. Will reporters allow him to crash it in their stories?
Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images