What to watch for in Wednesday’s Democratic debate: Warren’s pivot on Medicare for All, Buttigieg rising
With the Trump impeachment hearings consuming Washington, it can be hard to keep track of everything going on in the Democratic presidential primary. We've got you covered ahead of the fifth debate Wednesday night.
With the Trump impeachment hearings consuming Washington, it can be hard to keep track of everything going on in the Democratic presidential primary. So if you’ve been distracted by “irregular” foreign policy channels and which impeachment witness is saying what, we’ve got you covered.
The fifth Democratic presidential debate is set for 9 p.m. Wednesday on MSNBC. The Washington Post, which is co-hosting, will also be streaming the two-hour debate in Georgia.
Ten candidates will be on stage, as fewer Democrats in the sprawling primary field met the qualifications for the debate. The candidates in Wednesday’s debate are former Vice President Joe Biden; U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Amy Klobuchar; Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind.; U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard; entrepreneur Andrew Yang, and hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg won’t be there, either, but their late entry (or in Bloomberg’s case, his possible entry) into the primary could still be a factor in the debate.
Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke dropped out of the race earlier this month, and Julian Castro, a former secretary of housing and urban development, didn’t qualify for the debate.
» READ MORE: How to watch and stream Wednesday's debate
Here are a few things to watch.
Warren’s Medicare for All dance
During the fourth debate last month, Warren took heat for her squishy position on how she would finance her “Medicare for All” health care plan.
“Your signature, Senator, is to have a plan for everything — except this," Buttigieg told Warren.
A few weeks later, the Massachusetts Democrat unveiled her $20.5 trillion plan, which she said wouldn’t require a tax hike on the middle class. (Sanders says that under his plan, the middle class would pay more in taxes but would end up saving money because he’d eliminate out-of-pocket health care costs like co-pays.)
» READ MORE: How Rutgers and Penn Law shaped Elizabeth Warren
Then last week, Warren appeared to hedge her bets, saying she’d first create a public health insurance option, allowing anyone who wants to buy into Medicare to do so, followed by a transition to a full single-payer system by the end of her third year in office.
“Elizabeth Warren is no longer a Medicare for All purist,” the Post declared.
Candidates like Biden and Buttigieg have embraced a so-called public option as a middle ground between the status quo and Medicare for All, so it will be interesting to see how they react to Warren’s latest shuffle.
» READ MORE: No one shows up to Joe Biden debate-watch parties in Philly. Does that matter?
And will Sanders use the moment to claim the mantle of ideological purity?
‘Mayor Pete’ rockets to the top of the Iowa polls
During last month’s debate, the candidates made clear that they believed Warren had supplanted Biden as the front-runner, ganging up on her early and often.
It stands to reason that it may be Buttigieg’s turn in the hot seat Wednesday, after a new poll last week found he was the top choice for 25% of likely Iowa Democratic caucus-goers. That put him in first place in the Hawkeye State, nine points ahead of Warren and 10 points ahead of Biden and Sanders, according to the Des Moines Register/CNN Iowa Poll.
Will Buttigieg’s rivals respond accordingly?
There’s been some bad news for Buttigieg, too: Despite his gains in mostly white Iowa, he gets little to no support among black voters — a key Democratic key constituency — in the early primary state of South Carolina, surveys show.
Bloomberg, Patrick into the breach
Despite months of campaigning by the largest Democratic presidential field in recent memory, the party isn’t convinced it’s ready to beat President Donald Trump. Or at least, Bloomberg and Patrick aren’t convinced.
» READ MORE: Could Deval Patrick’s 2020 entry mean a tougher road for Joe Biden or Cory Booker?
Patrick announced his candidacy last week, and Bloomberg has been moving toward a run.
They won’t be on stage, but Wednesday gives the other candidates another chance to show voters that the party doesn’t need a rescue plan.