On July 18, the Democratic National Committee released the names of the 20 candidates who met the minimum thresholds to participate in the next DNC debate in Detroit on July 30 and 31, and will be hosted by CNN. Here's what we will probably see.
1. Mostly familiar faces
Minus the absence of California Representative Eric Swalwell, who decided to end his campaign for the presidency in the weeks following the first televised primary debates, the field is virtually the exact same. His replacement, Montana Governor Steve Bullock, will be at a serious disadvantage when his lack of popular name recognition will inevitably be coupled with the likelihood of a lesser-degree of questions from the moderators.
2. Trump's most recent twitter scandal will be front and center
Whether or not you agree with the President’s inferences on Twitter related to the patriotism and citizenship status of four progressive congresswomen, the mass of “send them back” comments on social media and at his July 17 rally in North Carolina, or his apparent disagreement with the chants and comments being made, the theme of racism and inclusion will absolutely guide the debate. It seems almost safe to assume that not only will this point be reinforced with claims related to the administration’s actions in border detention facilities, but that every candidate will likely offer a comment in defense of congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Rashia Tlaib (D-MI).
3. Joe Biden will still be the punching bag
While Biden is still the front-runner according to the latest polling information, Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Bernie Sanders (D/I-VT), as well as South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg (Boot-Edge-Edge), have made sizable gains in polling and fundraising following comparatively-stellar performances. Following a visible spar on stage between Harris and Biden last month concerning the former-Vice President’s stances on civil rights-era legislations during his time as a United States Senator, it seems likely that more confrontations are likely to ensue as a means to knock Biden off of the totem pole. If Biden stands a chance at maintaining his standing, he needs to be prepared, especially since he will be sharing the stage with Harris yet again.
4. Policy initiatives will again be largely inexplicable and without context
With a persistent theme of the leading candidates shaping up to be a battle of progressive democrats out-maneuvering one another, it seems likely that we will see another debate that focuses heavily on the main policy initiatives outlined in the first debates (i.e., women’s reproductive rights, health care for all, etc.). Yet, while these policy points absolutely deserve to be at the forefront of the discussion, a general lack of understanding and ability to articulate the initiatives as anything more than ideas were virtually non-existent last time. Granted, while time is ultimately limited to one minute per response for the sake of making sure that the debate itself remains structured and continuous, any candidate must be ready to explain their policy stances. Even then, it seems very unlikely that any candidate will escape far beyond the basic restating of the ideas supporting the policy, rather than actually informing people of the practical measures needed to impose a major policy initiative from the Oval Office.
5. Same stump speeches
In line with the fourth point, don’t expect much beyond the same stump speeches that are seen every day on the campaign trail at parks, auditoriums and factories across America. We must realize these debates are largely the “getting to know you” phase. While policy initiatives can motivate campaigns, it’s the candidates themselves that drive them.
And, unfortunately for virtually everyone other than Joe Biden as being a major face of the previous presidential administration, virtually no other candidate is even on par with Biden in terms of name recognition in the general public. The candidates will likely all continue the same stump speeches that highlight their backgrounds, beliefs, morals and especially why they think they’re the best possible tool to beat Donald Trump.
6. We will still have no idea who will win the nomination
Rather than viewing the current standings as :04 seconds left in the 4th quarter of the season championship, this is more equivalent to pre-season rankings that are absolutely destined to change. Will Joe Biden maintain his lead? I doubt it, but history seems to indicate that once a lead is lost, it seems unlikely that it will be regained.
Since the last debate, several candidates have dramatically increased their overall polling amongst likely-Democratic voters. Even then, you could still count the number of candidates polling over 5% on a single hand. We likely won’t know who the candidate will be until well-into the spring of 2020 when several states have undertaken primary elections.
7. This is likely the last time we will see 20 candidates on stage
With the recusal of Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA) last week, it is very likely that many are to follow, soon. While the field is massive during this cycle, numbers will start to dwindle as hopeful thoughts and well wishes to win the nomination begin to clash with dwindling polling numbers and the unfortunate reality of fundraising being the most integral part of maintaining a legitimate campaign.
Luckily for us, and perhaps unfortunately for unlikely contenders, the DNC has instituted thresholds for the debates that will make it increasingly harder to qualify for participation in each debate as they pass to dwindle the field overtime until only a handful of legitimate candidates remain. If lesser-performing candidates do not begin to drop-out in the next month, the DNC may force their hands. If anything, it will make it interesting to see who the departing candidates will endorse.