What to expect at Wednesday's Democratic presidential debate

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Michael Bloomberg has qualified for the Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas, paving the way for the former New York mayor's first appearance on stage with his 2020 rivals.

Posted: Feb 19, 2020 12:13 PM
Updated: Feb 19, 2020 12:13 PM

The best presidential primary debates have conflict and clash. The candidates participating in the ninth Democratic debate, happening Wednesday night in Las Vegas, look ready to level attacks on each other's policies and past positions. Good.

On issues ranging from health care to immigration, a vigorous debate would help Nevada Democrats determine whose plans can withstand scrutiny and whose will crumble under questioning. While some underdogs have become strong nomination contenders, others have faced harsh scrutiny -- and still others are largely a mystery to debate-watchers. How each debater performs Wednesday night could have a large impact on their campaign's trajectory.

For starters, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and his signature Medicare for All proposal, have a sizable and loyal following. But what happened in Nevada recently is a reminder that many Democrats oppose making private health insurance illegal.

The Culinary Union Local 226 represents 60,000 workers and is the most powerful union in Nevada. It also runs the Culinary Health Fund, which provides health benefits for members and their families. The union is strongly opposed to Medicare for All. It distributed a flyer recently stating that Sanders would "end Culinary healthcare."

An endorsement from Culinary 226 could have pushed a non-Bernie alternative to victory in Nevada. It declined to endorse anyone, however. Expect several candidates to tout their desire to defend union health care in an effort to appeal to undecided union members.

There's another wrinkle here, too: After Culinary 226 put out its fact sheet, Sanders supporters sent a barrage of vulgar insults to two of the union's top female leaders. Sanders denounced those attacks in a later interview on PBS, but former Vice President Joe Biden suggested Sanders bears "some accountability." Biden said that if his supporters had done that, he would "flat disown them." This could be a fruitful line of attack for Biden or another candidate to pursue during the debate.

For the Nevada debate, the Democratic National Committee scrapped the requirement to have a certain number of donors. That means the self-funded former New York Mayor and presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg is qualified to take the stage.

It will be worth watching how candidates engage with the billionaire's presidential bid. He isn't on the ballot in Nevada, but the other candidates have reason to go after him. The hundreds of millions of dollars he's poured into ads boosted him to third place in last week's Quinnipiac poll.

Bloomberg will be the perfect foil for Sen. Elizabeth Warren. She's frequently attacked banking institutions and has proposed a wealth tax. Expect her to ratchet up her attacks on Bloomberg for previously linking the 2008 financial crisis, in part, to a decline in "redlining," a practice in which banks didn't make loans in certain areas. Often those areas had a high minority population. Warren is currently fourth in the Quinnipiac poll so she has nothing to lose by using class warfare and issues of race to energize potential supporters.

Nevada, which holds its Democratic caucus February 22, is the first voting state with a sizable minority population. That gives candidates another line of attack on Bloomberg. He previously defended the use of "stop and frisk" as a crime-fighting tactic. In 2016, he said that "male, minorities, 16 to 25" made up the majority of violent criminals.

Comments like these give a candidate such as Pete Buttigieg an easy opening to try to ingratiate himself with minority voters. The former South Bend, Indiana, mayor has struggled to earn support from minority communities, which may have contributed to him polling poorly in Nevada.

Nevada has a large Hispanic population, so expect caucusgoers to key in on candidates' answers about immigration. With her surprising third-place finish in New Hampshire, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota touts herself as a moderate alternative to President Donald Trump. Being a moderate means she's held positions that don't always play well during a Democratic primary (for example, she once voted for building 370 miles of border fencing and increasing the number of Border Patrol agents). If other candidates think she has momentum, expect them to use that against her.

The last thing to note is that Nevada Democrats offer early caucus voting through Tuesday. Yes, that's as odd as it sounds. As of Monday morning, the Nevada State Democratic Party reported that more than 26,000 Democrats had voted early. In 2016, around 84,000 Democrats voted in the Nevada caucus, so a sizable number of voters will have voted before Wednesday's debate. Even if a candidate has a breakout performance Wednesday night, early voting will limit their surge, because there will be fewer caucusgoers left.

Almost every candidate coming to Nevada has a reason to be aggressive, which should make for one of the most informative and interesting debates yet.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 14372

Reported Deaths: 693
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds92024
Lauderdale69957
Madison68721
Scott62310
Neshoba56534
Jones52519
Forrest51137
DeSoto4936
Leake39512
Rankin3736
Holmes37324
Jackson30013
Copiah2854
Attala27715
Monroe25324
Leflore25030
Lincoln25022
Newton2504
Harrison2457
Lamar2275
Yazoo2233
Pearl River20731
Pike20211
Adams19015
Lowndes1828
Noxubee1696
Washington1636
Warren1587
Oktibbeha15010
Bolivar14911
Wayne1480
Jasper1483
Covington1411
Clarke13517
Smith13311
Kemper13110
Chickasaw12812
Lafayette1254
Lee1175
Carroll11410
Coahoma1133
Marion1129
Winston1051
Clay1043
Lawrence991
Simpson930
Hancock8711
Yalobusha855
Wilkinson859
Itawamba857
Grenada823
Montgomery811
Sunflower783
Union785
Marshall763
Jefferson Davis752
Tippah7111
Tate691
Panola643
Claiborne642
Calhoun614
Webster591
Amite561
Humphreys537
Tunica523
Walthall510
Perry492
Prentiss413
Jefferson400
Choctaw352
Stone300
Pontotoc283
Franklin272
Tishomingo260
Quitman250
Tallahatchie251
George201
Benton140
Alcorn141
Greene111
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 16310

Reported Deaths: 590
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2085112
Jefferson167397
Montgomery144634
Marshall6609
Tuscaloosa63212
Lee52632
Franklin4986
Shelby47019
Tallapoosa41063
Butler39113
Chambers34024
Madison3154
Elmore3007
Baldwin2829
Walker2821
DeKalb2403
Etowah24011
Dallas2323
Coffee2191
Lowndes21610
Morgan2111
Sumter2106
Autauga1923
Houston1854
Bullock1763
Pike1730
Colbert1612
Calhoun1523
Marengo1506
Choctaw1487
Russell1480
Lauderdale1452
Hale1416
Wilcox1327
Barbour1301
Clarke1282
Randolph1247
Marion11711
St. Clair1081
Pickens964
Dale960
Talladega963
Chilton931
Greene914
Cullman880
Limestone860
Winston770
Covington751
Jackson742
Bibb711
Henry702
Macon672
Crenshaw662
Washington656
Blount531
Escambia483
Lawrence460
Geneva400
Perry360
Conecuh351
Coosa341
Monroe342
Cherokee332
Clay272
Lamar210
Cleburne131
Fayette130
Unassigned00
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