Crowded Miami Debates Spotlight Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, But All 20 Democrats Could Shine Or Fizzle

WASHINGTON -- Joe Biden is on top, so he has the most to lose when 20 Democrats converge on Miami for televised debates on Wednesday and Thursday nights.They hope for a breakthrough moment that will earn a jolt in the polls and a windfall from donors, and they dread the possibility of a career-killing gaffe.There are subplots to watch for - rivalries within the larger field, uneasy alliances aimed at hobbling front-runners, generational friction, a competition to outdo everyone else at Trump bashing. With any luck, voters may even get some insight into policies and ideological differences. For 10 debaters, two hours isn’t much time. A handful will get the lion’s share of time.“For those on the edge of the stage, being able to somehow distinguish yourself, draw attention to yourself, interject yourself in the key points of the debate are important,” said Aaron Kall, director of debate at the University of Michigan and editor of Debating The Donald, a book in which college debate coaches analyzed the president’s 2016 debates.Republicans wrestled with a field nearly this big four years ago. Their solution: back-to-back debates, with low-polling candidates in a “happy hour debate” before the main attraction. Not surprisingly, no one doomed to the undercard events clawed their way out of the basement.Democrats were determined to give all the candidates - well, the top 20 -a prime-time chance to make their case.Even so, the Miami debates will have the feel of warmup and main event, because Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders account for nearly half the support, and they ended up in the same group, on Thursday.Wednesday night’s debate will be the first simultaneous look at the two Texans in the 2020 field.Julián Castro, the former San Antonio mayor and former Obama-era housing secretary, backed Beto O’Rourke last year against Sen. Ted Cruz. The field is plenty big for both of them, and really, they each have bigger problems than the other.Castro hasn’t caught fire yet, and O’Rourke has lost his buzz.Here’s what to watch for this week.  Continue reading...

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