With a Dozen Democrats, Tomorrow's Presidential Primary Debate in Ohio Will be the Largest Ever Televised

Democratic presidential hopefuls will have plenty to battle about during the three-hour debate in Westerville tomorrow night.

Oct 14, 2019 at 3:02 pm
Otterbein University - WIKIMEDIA
Otterbein University

Television crews are going to need a wide angle lens to capture the dozen Democratic Party presidential hopefuls crammed onto the stage at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio for the party's primary debate tomorrow. 

That's the most candidates ever for a televised presidential debate, besting Republican's 11 candidates in the 2016 primary elections. But don't worry — you'll have plenty of time to take them all in. The debate will run for three hours starting at 8 p.m. 

The marathon contest will pit the current frontrunners — former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders — against a  bevy of well-known but lower-polling contenders like South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and long-shot candidates businessmen Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer. 

The dozen will have to contend with at least one hot-button topic never broached before in a presidential debate: the impeachment inquiry Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives are conducting against President Donald Trump. How each candidate handles that issue — as well as myriad policy questions around the economy, the environment and other issues — could determine who advances further toward the party's nomination.

Biden will have the trickiest time, as he may have to fend off questions about his son Hunter Biden, who made $50,000 a month working for a Ukrainian energy firm. Though allegations by Trump that Biden tried to get a Ukrainian prosecutor fired for investigating Hunter appear to have no basis in reality, the question of why Biden's son was making vast sums of money working for the company in the first place could prove embarrassing to Biden. 

Other candidates may want to be careful as well, however.

Though some national polling of late has indicated increasing support for impeaching and even removing Trump from office, the Buckeye State went to Trump by eight points in 2016. Will some contenders try to take a moderate tack when it comes to the issue in an effort to woo possible swing voters? Or will candidates try to rally the Democratic Party's base by going after Trump with guns blazing? 

It will also be revealing to see how much attention some of the more left-leaning policy proposals Democrats have batted about recently will get, Will the discussion turn at length to proposals like Medicare for All, gun control Congressional Democrats' Green New Deal program, Warren's calls to break up big tech industries and her repeated attacks on Facebook and other tech giants and several candidates' calls for higher taxes on the wealthy? Or will contenders try to argue more standard economic issues and blast Trump policies like tariffs that have sparked ongoing trade tensions and suffering for some industries with presence in Ohio? 

Of course, not all of the issues will be about politics per se. Sanders, who recently had to have a surgical procedure after suffering a heart attack, may need to explain the status of his physical health and his ability to be president at 78. Biden, who is 76, may have to field similar questions. 

As the candidates gear up for the debate, they and Democratic Party officials are zipping across the state. Almost half the candidates appeared at an Ohio Democratic Party dinner last night, and Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez today visited striking General Motors workers in West Chester Township before taking off for Dayton, Columbus and other parts of the state.