The next Democrat presidential debate in Houston, Texas, is right around the corner, and while ten candidates qualified for the event, some doubt that the lower-tier candidates will be able to experience a breakthrough. At this point, it is all about Joe Biden (D), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Politico suggests.
The three candidates have dominated the top tier for the bulk of the months-long presidential race. While Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) experienced a significant bounce after taking on Biden on bussing during her first debate performance, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s (D-HI) attack on her prosecutorial record during the second debate in Detroit further squashed Harris’s momentum. She has been unable to recover since.
With the “winners” of the Detroit debates — Gabbard and Marianne Williamson (D) – absent from the next debate, as well as the more “moderate” Democrats who challenged both Sanders and Warren on their costly proposals (such as John Delaney (D), who questioned Warren’s “fairy tale economics”), all eyes will be on the top three candidates: Biden, Warren, and Sanders.
“The bottom is falling out of the Democratic presidential primary. And the top-tier — no longer five candidates, but three — is becoming more insurmountable,” Politico suggested, casting doubt on the remaining candidates’ ability to creep into the well-established top tier:
According to interviews with about two dozen Democratic operatives and consultants, there is little reason to expect any of them will.
“It was legitimate to say ‘Top 5’ for a long time, but with the exception of Kamala Harris being at the outer perimeter of the top three … you’d have to have a strange confluence of events for someone outside those four to win,” said Philippe Reines, a longtime Hillary Clinton confidant. “It would require all four failing. Like, you would need all four of them to be in a plane crash or something.”
For every other candidate, Reines said, “It’s too late in the game to keep saying it’s too early.”
One of the reasons lower-tier candidates have struggled to gain notoriety, Politico reported, is because candidates can “barely focus on anything else besides meeting the Democratic National Committee’s increasingly arduous fundraising and polling benchmarks for debates.” Such efforts proved fruitless for many of the candidates, as only ten qualified, prompting Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) to drop out of the race altogether.
Because of that, all eyes will be on Biden, Warren, and Sanders. While there are rumblings that campaigns are ramping up opposition research on Warren, it remains unclear who lower-tier candidates will aim to attack — Biden, Warren, or Sanders. Warren and Sanders have largely remained an ideological team, consistently refusing to attack one another. It is possible — and likely, even — that Sanders and Warren will continue to live out their unsaid pact. Will the duo be on offense, launching attacks at their main competition, Biden? Will they be on defense, defending their radical proposals — such as Medicare for All, free college, and increased taxation — from the likes of Biden and Harris? That remains to be seen.
“Somebody like Buttigieg or Harris, at this moment, they can only succeed with a Biden collapse,” Democrat strategist Doug Herman said, according to Politico. “They have an if-then strategy. They are not in control of their destiny.”