Ten Democrats vie for presidential nomination in third debate

Biden and Warren to face off for first time as former vice-president’s lead in polls slips

Ten Democratic candidates hoping to become the presidential nominee in next year’s election will take to the stage in Houston, Texas, on Thursday in the third Democratic presidential debate.

Unlike the first two debates in Miami and Detroit, which saw 20 candidates battle it out over two nights, Thursday’s debate is confined to 10 individuals who met the qualification criteria.

Front-runners Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris are among those who will take the stage for the three-hour event. Other candidates who qualified include senators Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke and fellow Texan Julian Castro. Tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang will also participate.

Thursday night’s debate will be the first time Mr Biden and Ms Warren will face each other on the debate stage. Ms Warren has been building a steady support base over the summer, and is polling particularly well in early-voting states such as Iowa and New Hampshire. Her policy positions are to the left of Mr Biden’s centrist stance, particularly on issues such as healthcare.


Although Mr Biden’s performance in the first two debates disappointed many, a recent Washington Post/ABC poll found that he is leading the polls among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independent voters, though his lead has tightened marginally.

Poll results

Some 29 per cent of those polled support the former vice-president for the nomination, followed by 19 per cent for Mr Sanders and 18 per cent for Ms Warren. California senator Ms Harris is fourth at seven per cent.

Separately, poll results released on Tuesday show that US president Donald Trump trails four of the five top-polling candidates.

A Washington Post/ABC poll of registered voters asked respondents who they would vote for if the 2020 election was held now. Faced with a choice between Mr Trump and Mr Biden, 55 per cent of registered voters said they would vote for the former vice-president while 40 per cent would back Mr Trump.

In a scenario where the incumbent would face Mr Sanders, 52 per cent would vote for the Vermont senator while 43 per cent would back the president. Similarly, Ms Warren has a seven-point lead over the president.

Despite the poll’s indication that Mr Trump is facing a tough re-election battle, Republicans were celebrating a win in South Carolina after the Republican candidate won Monday’s special congressional election in the state.

Mr Trump hailed a "big victory for the Republican party," suggesting that his decision to hold a rally for the Republican candidate Dan Bishop had affected the outcome.

“Dan Bishop was down 17 points 3 weeks ago. He then asked me for help, we changed his strategy together, and he ran a great race,” he said. “Big Rally last night. Now it looks like he is going to win,” he added, shortly before the result was called.

Suzanne Lynch talked to Deputy Foreign Editor David McKechnie about the Democratic primary contest. To listen, click here

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent