Debate Night Cheat Sheet: Round Two

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The debates this week are a big deal for the twenty candidates set to take to the stage. Since the Democrat National Committee (DNC) has raised the bar to entry for the September debates, for lesser-known candidates this could be their last chance to try and make an impression on voters. Candidates will now need 2% in 4 DNC-approved polls and 130,000 unique donors to make it through to the third debates (for the first two debates they needed just 1% in three separate polls and 65,000 unique donors).

So while Biden, Sanders, Warren, Harris, Buttigieg and O’Rourke have definitely qualified - Booker and Klobuchar have hit the polling threshold but not yet secured the donors, and Yang has the donors but not the supporters - for the rest of the candidates this week could have a big impact on whether they make it through to the next round of debates.

With that in mind, here are our top 10 pointers of what to look out for, using Motown greatest hits as our headers to set the mood. We're fun like that.

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1. I Second That Emotion (Smokey Robinson and The Miracles)

  • Will round 2 confirm the ‘leftward’ lurch seen in round 1? In Miami, a couple of issues (the elimination of private healthcare insurance, decriminalizing illegal border crossing) were supported by leading candidates (Warren, Sanders, Harris, etc.). These two issues have been seized upon by Republicans and don’t have the support of the general electorate according to a new NPR/ Marist poll. Will these same issues come up again, and will the candidates confirm their positions?

  • Kamala Harris notably retracted her support for eliminating private health insurance after the last debates, saying she'd misinterpreted the question when she raised her hand in support of elimination. Will we see more such backtracks this time around?

2. Ain't No Mountain High Enough (Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell)

  • What about other issues that weren’t raised in round 1? Will the candidates continue to move leftward on these? Will they have a program for everyone? Look for more discussions on affordable housing and clean water (remember in the city of Flint, Michigan cost-cutting measures led to poisoned drinking water that contained lead and other toxins). Also, expect more on providing reparations to the descendants of slaves and student debt forgiveness.

3. Stop! In the Name of Love (Supremes):

  • The conditions on the southern U.S. border for detainees attempting to cross into the U.S. has been a hot topic. Many of the candidates have made trips to detention centers and we can count on condemnation of Trump being a point of agreement by all the candidates. But there could be some interesting differences in opinion when it comes to future policies and the treatment of ICE.

  • During the last debates Castro dominated the discussion on immigration, criticizing O’Rourke for not supporting the decriminalization of border crossings and thereby exposing a key point of division within the party’s position on immigration policy. Castro has the most comprehensive immigration agenda - will he once again be able to lead the way on this key issue?

4. Where Did Our Love Go (Supremes)

  • The Biden and Harris ‘duet’ was the round one headline. Harris seized on Biden’s record and he, in turn, looked stunned. Afterward, Biden explained that he didn't expect the attacks as he and Harris are friends. But his performance again raised issues about his age and past campaign failures. And while Harris gained in the polls following the debate, moving from 7.0% to a peak of 15.2%, and gained nearly 60,000 new Twitter followers (the most new followers amassed by any of the candidates over the course of the debates), Biden went down, moving from 31.1% to a low of 26.0%.

  • They will be together on stage for round two on the second night - will the debates again be an opportunity for Harris to gain momentum? And if so, will this be at the expense of Biden? Or will Biden go on the offense to show he is ‘tough’? Don't forget, he hired former Clinton and Obama speech coach, Michael Sheehan, the day after his widely criticized performance during the last debates. He’s the candidate running on supposed ‘electability’ after all, so he has a lot at stake here.

5. Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing (Marvin Gaye)

  • While we are talking about one-on-one matchups, Warren and Sanders are both on night one. Sanders is credited with laying the foundations for so many of the policy positions now being taken up by other candidates, and both candidates acknowledge their positions on a lot of issues are the same. Remember during the first debates, Warrenmade the point of saying "I'm with Bernie on Medicare for All".

  • But Warren has taken Sander's grand ideas and put together in-depth position papers. And since the last debates, she's been gaining serious momentum, leapfrogging Sanders in certain polls and cutting into his support amongst progressive groups. So, will Sanders gracefully let her usurp his agenda, or will he be pushing hard this time around to remind people that he is the original democratic socialist?

6. Ball of Confusion (Temptations)

  • Will there be a request for the candidates to provide their lyrics on foreign policy? A lot of the candidates say U.S./China issues need to be confronted but say Trump is doing it all wrong. Also, tensions with Iran have mounted since the last debates. And about Boris Johnson as the new UK Prime Minister? Trump’s a fan, but are the candidates?

7. Fight The Power (Public Enemy)

  • Trump was mentioned in round one, but not as much as many expected. Since then the Mueller Congressional testimony was held, the situation on the US/Mexico border has worsened, tensions have mounted in Iran, and more resignations have been tendered in the Trump White House. So, will Trump be more of a topic this time? And if so, how will the candidates distinguish themselves in this area?

8. Smiling Faces Sometimes (Undisputed Truth)

  • Harris had her break out in round one when she went for the Biden ‘jugular’. Will one of the struggling candidates do the same? Some may figure this will be their last debate unless they gain some momentum. Castro, Booker, and Gillibrand have all been ratcheting up their rhetoric. Will they bring this to the debate stage? Who will they target?

9. You Keep Hangin’ On (Temptations)

  • One candidate has dropped out so far (Rep. Eric Swalwell), but more will follow soon. Who will be the next to go after this second round of debates?

  • A number of candidates spent more funds in Q2 of this year than the money they took in - including Booker, Klobuchar, Gillibrand, Inslee and O’Rourke - so their time could be limited. Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper's campaign admitted as much to supporters last week, highlighting in an email the "harsh truth" that Detroit “could be John’s last opportunity to take the stage” if the campaign doesn’t hit its fundraising goals. For those who do drop out, what’s their plan? Will they endorse someone else, and when?

10. My Girl (Temptations)

  • Right now Biden, Warren, Sanders, Harris, and Buttigieg are leading in the polls. But what movements will we see after this second round of debates?

  • After slumping in the polls after the first debate, Biden is bouncing back and leading the field with 33%, according to a recent Fox News national poll. How will the debates affect this?

  • Meanwhile, Buttigieg announced he raised $24.8 million for the second quarter of his 2020 campaign, having made serious inroads with the sort of big-money donors that support Harris and Biden. Will his performance in the second debate further help to elevate his ‘underdog’ campaign?

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The Candidates Taking To The Stage:

Debate Night One: July 30th


Debate Night Two: July 31st

de Blasio

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