Democratic presidential candidates prepare to go on the offensive ahead of second debate

Joe Biden set to come under fire again as he remains frontrunner for 2020 nomination

US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders addresses  an event at the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, in Detroit, Michigan.  Photograph: Rebecca Cook/Reuters

US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders addresses an event at the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, in Detroit, Michigan. Photograph: Rebecca Cook/Reuters

 

Democratic candidates for the 2020 presidential election will descend on Detroit, Michigan, this week for their second debate, as the hopefuls battle it out to become the Democrats’ pick to take on Donald Trump in next year’s vote.

Despite a poor performance during the first debate in Miami last month, former vice-president Joe Biden remains the frontrunner according to several polls, though his lead has narrowed.

The most recent poll, from Fox News last week, put Biden ahead among Democratic primary voters, with support at 33 per cent. Vermont senator Bernie Sanders was second-in-line with 15 per cent, followed by Elizabeth Warren at 12 per cent and Kamala Harris at 10 per cent.

Biden delivered a shaky performance at the Miami debate as he came under sustained attack from California senator Kamala Harris for his record on race relations. Harris, a 54-year-old former prosecutor and attorney general in California, highlighted Biden’s previous opposition to “busing”, a policy designed to integrate the US’s public schools, arguing that she, as a young black girl, benefitted from the federal policy. Harris saw a sharp increase in donations in the days immediately following the debate, solidifying her strong fundraising performance since the primary campaign started.

Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg is the top performer in terms of fundraising, ratcheting up more than $24 million in donations in the second quarter. The 37-year-old war veteran has yet to break into double-digits in national polls, though he is widely seen as having performed strongly in the first debate.

This week’s debate will take place over two nights at Fox Theatre in Detroit, with 10 candidates taking to the stage on Tuesday evening and another 10 on Wednesday. Candidates were obliged to meet two thresholds to be included – reach at least 1 per cent in three polls, and secure at least 65,000 individual donations.

As with last month’s debate, the second night is likely to be the most high-profile of the two. Biden and Harris, whose interchange on stage was the defining moment of the first debate, will again appear on the same debate stage, this time alongside New Jersey senator Cory Booker.

Left-wing policies

Tuesday night’s debate is likely to be dominated by Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who will be standing side by side on stage. Both share similar left-wing policies, and are likely to be questioned on their stances on issues like healthcare, education and tax.

Biden’s team has indicated that the former vice-president is likely to take a more combative approach in the second debate. “I’m not going to be as polite this time,” Biden said last week. Speaking immediately after last month’s debate, in which he failed to give an adequate response to Harris’s criticism, Biden said: “I was prepared for them to come after me, but I wasn’t prepared for the person coming at me the way she came out,” noting that Harris had been a friend of his son Beau, who died from cancer in 2015.

Booker – who is the only other black candidate in the field – has also hinted that he will challenge Biden during the debate. This week he criticised Biden’s criminal justice plans, prompting Biden to lambast Booker’s record as mayor of Newark, claiming that his police department embraced a stop and frisk policy that disproportionately affected black men.

President Donald Trump has indicated that he is closely watching the evolving Democratic race.

On Friday, he hit out at Fox News, typically his news channel of choice, for its polling showing a strong lead for Biden.

He tweeted: “Now new Fox Polls, which have always been terrible to me (they had me losing BIG to Crooked Hillary), have me down to Sleepy Joe,” a reference to Biden.

“FoxNews is at it again . . . So different from what they used to be during the 2016 Primaries, & before – Proud Warriors!”

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