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For the first time in the 2020 campaign, debating champ Elizabeth Warren has a chance to genuinely pull ahead



Elizabeth Warren

  • Senator Elizabeth Warren has a chance to shine in Wednesday night’s Democratic primary debate, giving her a scenario that plays to her strengths.
  • The Massachusetts senator will be the only top-flight candidate on Wednesday, with Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden both appearing Thursday.
  • In some polls, she is level with or leading Senator Bernie Sanders as the second most popular Democratic candidate. 
  • A star debater, Warren’s campaign is built around detailed policy proposals which may get a better airing in this setting than before.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Once seen as an outside bet, Senator Elizabeth Warren’s campaign is building momentum; a momentum which could deliver results at Wednesday night’s 2020 TV debate.

Her run for the White House is built round detailed policy proposals on issues like tax, trade, debt, education and the green economy. “I have a plan for that” has been adopted as an unofficial campaign slogan. 

Once seen as an somewhat distant academic, she’s surprised many with the passion and energy of her candidacy. 

It’s a stark contrast to the insults-driven, social media based campaign of President Donald Trump — though it has the disadvantage of catching rather less attention.

Ahead of tonight’s first Democratic primary debate in Miami, to be broadcast on NBC, the Massachusetts senator and former law professor is gaining in the polls. 

A straw poll by progressive group MoveOnOrg on Tuesday found her the first choice for 38% of the group’s members. Her chief rival for the vote of the party’s progressive wing, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, came second. He also trailed Warren in a June 14 Economist/YouGov poll, and a recent poll of Democrats in Nevada. 

So crowded is the Democratic field, that the debates are to be spread over two nights, with Warren the only leading challenger participating in Wednesday’s. The line-up was the result of a random selection process by NBC, but puts Warren in a good position.

She will share the stage with Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke, Senator Corey Booker, Senator Amy Klobuchar; while outsiders such as Tim Ryan of Ohio and Hawaii Senator Tulsi Gabbard will be hoping to steal attention.

A former star debater who won her college scholarship aged only 16 on the back of her skill at the podium, this week’s debate offers her a chance to further cut into the lead of her rivals and showcase her plans.

Maria Cardona, a Democratic strategist, told the Associated Press: “I don’t think anyone else on that night has her level of skill and her level of experience in this format.” 

“I think she should look at this as an opportunity to really shine and come out of the first night as the one that is dominating the conversation.”

The second night of the debate will see the candidates who have led most polls —Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden — go head to head.

Taking the stage independently of her key challengers will deny Warren the opportunity to attack them directly, but it will give her an opportunity to bring her message to Americans without the distraction of a Sanders-Biden showdown.

However with O’Rourke in particular badly needing to turn round an ailing campaign, Warren could find herself on the end of attacks by her rivals, placing her on the defensive and depriving her of the chance to create viral moments that can massively boost a candidacy.

On balance, though, plenty of observers believe that Wednesday night is Warren’s moment.

According to a preview of the debate by New York Magazine’s Gabriel Debenedetti, Warren will succeed if she can “talk with specificity about the progressive policy plans she’s been unveiling to great fanfare, without needing to criticize any other candidate too sharply.

“This tactic has won her praise as a serious contender, and she’ll be eager to amplify that in front of her biggest national audience yet.”

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