From left, the roster (onstage, not in the picture above) is:
- Author and activist Marianne Williamson
- Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper
- Entrepreneur Andrew Yang
- South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg
- Former Vice President Joe Biden
- Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders
- California Sen. Kamala Harris
- New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
- Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet
- California Rep. Eric Swalwell
Due to the luck of the draw, this is effectively the marquee night for the debate -- with frontrunner Biden, second-place Sanders, and tied-for-fourth-place Harris and Buttigieg all onstage.
And all eyes will be on Biden. He’s certainly no stranger to the format; his first presidential debate was 32 years ago, and he was in several more during his 2007 campaign, as well as general election vice presidential debates in 2008 and 2012. Still, for the clear frontrunner, the pressure will be on, and his rivals will be sure to pounce on any misstep.
Sanders, for instance, will have an opportunity to make the case that his vision for the presidency would be far different -- he wants a political revolution, whereas Biden emphatically does not. Harris and Buttigieg, too, could argue that new leadership is needed for the party. But it’s not clear just how aggressive these candidates will be in attacking Biden; they could decide it’s a mistake to go too negative this early.
The two Democratic candidates without experience in political office will also be onstage on this night. Williamson, an author who has written on spirituality, has recently tried to backtrack from comments she made criticizing vaccines. Meanwhile, entrepreneur Yang will tout his plan for a universal basic income of $1,000 a month.
With most of the top-polling contenders as well as Williamson and Yang on this night, it may be more difficult for the other politicians onstage -- Gillibrand, Bennet, Hickenlooper, and Swalwell -- to stand out.
Like last night, I will put down the phone and step away from the laptop and just let the experience wash over me without feeling the urge to interact with a second, small screen. Old school, '90's style, not so much sifting and sorting of wheat from Twitter chaff.
Seems to give me a clearer perspective for the morning-after take.