There's no debate about it: All eyes on Warren as Dems take the stage

Wednesday night will mark the first time a large number of Democratic presidential hopefuls will stand on the same stage at the same time and answer the same questions from the same questioners.

Just don’t call it a debate.

Whatever presidential debates used to be — or will be again, when the field eventually narrows to a handful of competitors, then just a couple — the meeting in Miami won’t be that. Not only is it logistically impossible to engage in a vigorous war of words with your opponents when there are nine of them surrounding you on stage. Tonight, it doesn’t even make strategic sense.

Despite the Democratic National Committee’s best efforts to spread varsity and junior varsity contenders evenly across two evenings, a randomized drawing has resulted in a Thursday “debate” featuring candidates whose combined polling support tops 60 percent — and a Wednesday “debate” featuring candidates whose combined polling support hovers in the low-to-mid 20s. The only first-tier candidate among them, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, accounts for fully half of that support; the rest have either struggled to clear 2 percent in the polls (former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker) or lingered just above the 1 percent threshold for qualification (former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, New York Mayor Bill De Blasio, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney).

23 PHOTOS
Melania Trump kicks off 2020 campaign
See Gallery
Melania Trump kicks off 2020 campaign
First lady Melania Trump speaks to supporters at a rally where President Donald Trump formally announced his 2020 re-election bid Tuesday, June 18, 2019, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive on stage to formally kick off his re-election bid with a campaign rally in Orlando, Florida, U.S., June 18, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
US President Donald Trump greets First Lady Melania Trump as he takes the stage for the official launch of the Trump 2020 campaign at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida on June 18, 2019. - Trump kicks off his reelection campaign at what promised to be a rollicking evening rally in Orlando. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, USA - JUNE 18: US first lady Melania Trump greets supporters during a rally at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida on June 18, 2019. President Donald Trump officially launches his 2020 campaign. (Photo by Eva Marie Uzcategui T./Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
First lady Melania Trump and President Donald Trump greet supporters at a rally to formally announce his 2020 re-election bid Tuesday, June 18, 2019, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
ORLANDO, USA - JUNE 18: US first lady Melania Trump (C) beside US President Donald Trump (R) speaks during a rally at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida on June 18, 2019. President Donald Trump officially launches his 2020 campaign. (Photo by Eva Marie Uzcategui T./Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive at his re-election kickoff rally at the Amway Center, Tuesday, June 18, 2019, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
ORLANDO, USA - JUNE 18: US President Donald Trump (2nd L), first lady Melania Trump (L), US Vice President Mike Pence (2nd R) and his wife Karen Pence (R) greet supporters during a rally at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida on June 18, 2019. President Donald Trump officially launches his 2020 campaign. (Photo by Eva Marie Uzcategui T./Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, USA - JUNE 18: US President Donald Trump (C-L) and first lady Melania Trump (C) arrive on stage during a rally at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida on June 18, 2019. President Donald Trump officially launches his 2020 campaign. (Photo by Eva Marie Uzcategui T./Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrive for the official launch of the Trump 2020 campaign at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida on June 18, 2019. - Trump kicks off his reelection campaign at what promised to be a rollicking evening rally in Orlando. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - US President Donald Trump greets First Lady Melania Trump as he takes the stage for the official launch of the Trump 2020 campaign at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida on June 18, 2019. - Trump kicks off his reelection campaign at what promised to be a rollicking evening rally in Orlando. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, USA - JUNE 18: US President Donald Trump (R) and first lady Melania Trump (L) greet supporters a rally at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida on June 18, 2019. President Donald Trump officially launches his 2020 campaign. (Photo by Eva Marie Uzcategui T./Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrive for the official launch of the Trump 2020 campaign at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida on June 18, 2019. - Trump kicks off his reelection campaign at what promised to be a rollicking evening rally in Orlando. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump greet supporters at a rally where the president formally announced his 2020 re-election bid Tuesday, June 18, 2019, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
President Donald Trump with first lady Melania Trump arrives to speak at his re-election kickoff rally at the Amway Center, Tuesday, June 18, 2019, in Orlando. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
ORLANDO, USA - JUNE 18: US President Donald Trump (C-L) and first lady Melania Trump (C-R) arrive on stage during a rally at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida on June 18, 2019. President Donald Trump officially launches his 2020 campaign. (Photo by Eva Marie Uzcategui T./Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump kiss at a campaign kick off rally at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida, U.S., June 18, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
U.S. President Donald Trump reacts with first lady Melania Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen Pence on stage formally kicking off his re-election bid with a campaign rally in Orlando, Florida, U.S., June 18, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump wave at a campaign kick off rally at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida, U.S., June 18, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
First lady Melania Trump speaks as U.S. President Donald Trump looks on as he formally kick off his re-election bid with a campaign rally in Orlando, Florida, U.S., June 18, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump reacts with first lady Melania Trump as he formally kick off his re-election bid with a campaign rally in Orlando, Florida, U.S., June 18, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump reacts with first lady Melania Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen Pence on stage formally kicking off his re-election bid with a campaign rally in Orlando, Florida, U.S., June 18, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
First lady Melania Trump speaks as U.S. President Donald Trump looks on as he formally kick off his re-election bid with a campaign rally in Orlando, Florida, U.S., June 18, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

With a lower-wattage lineup like that, there’s no real incentive for anyone to fight anyone else. Warren’s true rivals are gathering tomorrow; everyone else’s true rival, for now, is him- or herself.

So if not a debate, per se, what will Miami be?

Put simply, a platform. The allusion to social media is deliberate. Sure, viewership will be relatively high. But the proceedings will be scattershot and confusing — 10 candidates, few of them well known, spouting soundbites in quick succession and speaking for a grand total of maybe five minutes each. Meanwhile, the vast majority of tonight’s intended audience, the Democratic primary electorate, will beabsorbing the event through the reductive filter of tomorrow’s Facebook feed.

All of which puts a premium on a very specific kind of performance: The Clickable Moment.

As New York Times television critic James Poniewozik astutely observed of the overcrowded primary as a whole, “the umpteen Democratic candidates have two challenges. One is to figure out what entices news producers to show their clips and what lures voters scrolling their phones to hit play. The second, related to the first, is to implicitly argue how they, in a general election, would seize attention from a president who can re-scramble the day’s news lineup by tweeting a mean nickname before breakfast.”

The goal, in other words, is to go viral. But in Miami, the stakes won’t be the same for everyone. Here are three story lines to watch:

Will Warren come out fighting — or play it safe?

As tonight’s undeniable big dog, Warren will likely attract the most interest from viewers and pundits. Her position is perhaps the most complicated of the bunch. Long considered a potential 2020 frontrunner, she stumbled right out of the gate by responding to President Trump’s “Pocahontas” taunts with a slick video touting her distant Native American ancestry, and her campaign stalled for months. Yet in recent weeks Warren has received reams of positive coverage for her extensive policy proposals, and polling both nationally and in key early states has shown her climbing into third place behind Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.

The question tonight is whether Warren will seek to maintain her momentum by continuing to emphasize policy and hewing closely to her well-honed talking points about reforming government to “work for you” and not just “the wealthy and well-connected” — or whether she will step on the gas by drawing contrasts with Biden and Sanders, even in their absence.

The former approach would be more voter-centric: an opportunity for Warren to simply deliver her message to a huge audience of Democrats who have yet to see her stump. The latter would more media-friendly: a way to undercut her main rival on the left (Sanders) and in the middle (Biden) while staying in the news as the spotlight immediately shifts to Thursday’s event. Given Warren’s recent rise, however, she will be subject to more intense scrutiny than her lower-polling rivals. And that’s an argument to play it safe; any missteps will likely go viral in precisely the wrong way, as her DNA test did.

22 PHOTOS
Sen. Elizabeth Warren
See Gallery
Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., attends a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in Dirksen Building titled 'Foreign Cyber Threats to the United States,' featuring testimony by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and others, January 5, 2016.

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Armed Services Committee members (L-R) Sen. Martin Heinrich (D - NM), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) talk during a hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill January 5, 2017 in Washington, DC. The intelligence chiefs testified to the committee about cyber threats to the United States and fielded questions about effects of Russian government hacking on the 2016 presidential election.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) (L) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) arrive for a hearing with the Director of National Intelligence and National Security Agency chief in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill January 5, 2017 in Washington, DC. The intelligence chiefs testified to the committee about cyber threats to the United States and fielded questions about effects of Russian government hacking on the 2016 presidential election.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Democratic Nominee for President of the United States former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, accompanied by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), speaks to and meets New England voters during a rally at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire on Monday October 24, 2016.

(Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Mark Wahlberg, Former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis, Boston Police Commissioner Billy Evans, Former Boston Red Sox player David Ortiz, Dun 'Danny' Meng, Jessica Downes, Patrick Downes, Senator Elizabeth Warren, director Peter Berg and Harvard Law professor Bruce Mann pose on the red carpet at the 'Patriots Day' screening at the Boch Center Wang Theatre on December 14, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.

(Photo by Natasha Moustache/WireImage)

Democratic Nominee for President of the United States former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, accompanied by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), speaks to and meets New England voters during a rally at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire on Monday October 24, 2016.

(Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Former Red Sox player David Ortiz talks with Senator Elizabeth Warren at the 'Patriots Day' screening at the Boch Center Wang Theatre on December 14, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.

(Photo by Natasha Moustache/WireImage)

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Senator Elizabeth Warren hold a rally at St. Anselm College in Manchester, NH on Oct. 24, 2016.

(Photo by Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks at a Manchester 'New Hampshire Together' Canvass Launch event in Manchester, NH on Sept. 24, 2016.

(Photo by Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Senior United States Senator from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren speaks onstage at EMILY's List Breaking Through 2016 at the Democratic National Convention at Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts on July 27, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

(Photo by Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images For EMILY's List)

US Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, holds up copies of Wells Fargo earnings call transcripts as she questions John Stumpf, chairman and CEO of Wells Fargo, as he testifies about the unauthorized opening of accounts by Wells Fargo during a Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, September 20, 2016.

(SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) along with members of the Democratic Women of the Senate acknowledge the crowd on the fourth day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center, July 28, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Philadelphia, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Democratic National Convention kicked off July 25.

(Photo by Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) delivers remarks on the first day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center, July 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Philadelphia, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Democratic National Convention kicked off July 25.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III welcomes Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren on stage on Day 1 of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, July 25, 2016.

(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accompanied by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks to and meets Ohio voters during a rally at the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal in Cincinnati, Ohio on Monday, June 27, 2016.

(Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert airing live, Thursday July 21, 2016 in New York. With guest Elizabeth Warren .

(Photo by Scott Kowalchyk/CBS via Getty Images)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) arrives in the Capitol for the on Tuesday, June 28, 2016.

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) (R) meets with Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland (L), chief judge of the D.C. Circuit Court, April 14, 2016 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Garland continued to place visits to Senate members after he was nominated by President Barack Obama to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, listens as Janet Yellen, chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve, testifies during a Senate Banking Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, June 21, 2016. Yellen offered a subtle change to her outlook from less than a week ago, saying she and her colleagues were on watch for whether, rather than when, the U.S. economy would show clear signs of improvement.

(Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., greets guests during a rally on the east lawn of the Capitol to urge Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to hold a vote on the 'Seniors and Veterans Emergency Benefits Act,' March 9, 2016. The legislation would provide a one time payment to seniors, veterans and other SSI recipients who will not get a cost-of-living adjustment this year.

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senators Bob Corker (L) and Elizabeth Warren (R) speak before a Senate Banking Committee on the semiannual monetary report to Congress hearing in Washington, USA on February 11, 2016.

(Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), talks with Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) in the House chamber prior to President Obama's State of the Union speech on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 12, 2013.

(REUTERS/Charles Dharapak/Pool)

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Can O’Rourke, Klobuchar or Booker break out?

On paper, all three of them are plausible Democratic nominees. The Texas phenomenon who came out of nowhere to nearly unseat Republican super-villain Ted Cruz. The Minnesota everywoman who knows how to win in Trump country. And the eloquent, inspiring black senator with the sterling résumé and deep commitment to inner-city America.

Yet neither Booker nor Klobuchar has ever cleared 7 percent in the polling averages; today, they average 2.4 percent and 1 percent respectively. And while O’Rourke got off to a strong start, his numbers have declined steadily ever since, settling just above 3 percent

Tonight’s gathering in Miami is their best chance yet to shake things up. And though each of them has released substantial policy proposals in recent weeks — O’Rourke on climate change and immigration; Booker on housing and baby bonds; Klobuchar on the 100-plus executive actions she’d take during her first 100 days — any fireworks tonight will likely center on emotion. Watch for Booker to deploy his considerable rhetorical skills to address his dispute with Biden over the latter invoking his ability, as a young senator, to work with racist colleagues from the South. Watch for O’Rourke to generate the kind of earnest, uplifting moment that served him so well in the 2018 Texas Senate race (as when he defended NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the national anthem). And watch for Klobuchar — perhaps the only genuinely funny candidate in the entire field — to use humor to her advantage.

Whether any of it will be enough to turn things around for Booker, O’Rourke or Klobuchar, who knows? But they can’t win on their current trajectories, so some sort of shakeup is in order.

18 PHOTOS
Beto O'Rourke throughout his political career
See Gallery
Beto O'Rourke throughout his political career
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 13: Rep.-elect Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas, speaks to reporters after a news conference with democratic members-elect in the Capitol Visitor Center. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
**ADVANCE FOR MONDAY, OCT 31** El Paso City Representatives Steve Ortega, left and Beto O'Rourke pose with a backdrop of Downtown El Paso, Texas, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2005. The two and three other colleagues, all political newcomers under 35, were elected this year to the El Paso city council. The group of young up-and-comers say they took on their public roles to make El Paso the kind of city it should be, the kind it has long struggled to become. (AP Photo/El Paso Times, Victor Calzada)
US Rep. Beto O'Rourke (R), D-TX, speaks during a meeting with One Campaign volunteers including Jeseus Navarrete (L) on February 26, 2013 in O'Rouke's office in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGANWith the United States days away from billions of dollars in automatic spending cuts, anti-poverty campaigners fear that reductions in foreign aid could potentially lead to thousands of deaths. The world's largest economy faces $85 billion in cuts virtually across the board starting on March 1, 2013 unless the White House and Congress reach a last-minute deal ahead of the self-imposed deadline known as the sequester. While the showdown has caused concern in numerous circles, activists are pushing hard to avoid a 5.3 percent cut in US development assistance which they fear could set back programs to feed the poor and prevent disease. 'The sequester is an equal cut across the board, but equal cuts don't have equal impact,' said Tom Hart, US executive director of the One campaign, the anti-poverty group co-founded by U2 frontman Bono. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MAY 23: Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas, rides his bike after a democratic congressional baseball practice in Northeast. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - MAY 23: Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas, is pictured at a democratic congressional baseball practice in Northeast. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
US Rep. Beto O'Rourke , D-TX, meets with One campaign volunteers on February 26, 2013 in O'Rouke's office in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. With the United States days away from billions of dollars in automatic spending cuts, anti-poverty campaigners fear that reductions in foreign aid could potentially lead to thousands of deaths. The world's largest economy faces $85 billion in cuts virtually across the board starting on March 1, 2013 unless the White House and Congress reach a last-minute deal ahead of the self-imposed deadline known as the sequester. While the showdown has caused concern in numerous circles, activists are pushing hard to avoid a 5.3 percent cut in US development assistance which they fear could set back programs to feed the poor and prevent disease. 'The sequester is an equal cut across the board, but equal cuts don't have equal impact,' said Tom Hart, US executive director of the One campaign, the anti-poverty group co-founded by U2 frontman Bono. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 14: Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas, walks down the House steps of the Capitol following the last votes of the week on Friday, June 14, 2013. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
U.S. citizen Edgar Falcon, second from right, and Maricruz Valtierra of Mexico, second from left, laugh while El Paso congressman Beto O'Rourke, right, and Judge Bill Moody, left, congratulate them after the couple was married at U.S.-Mexico border, Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013 in El Paso, Texas. Like many other couples made up of a US citizen and a foreigner, Falcon and Valtierra, who has been declared inadmissible after an immigration law violation, hope immigration reform will help them live together in the U.S. (AP Photo/Juan Carlos Llorca)
Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas, stands with his family for a ceremonial photo with Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, left, in the Rayburn Room of the Capitol after the new 113th Congress convened on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, in Washington. The official oath of office for all members of the House was administered earlier in the House chamber. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas., surrounded by border region leaders, human rights experts, and residents, speaks to media on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013., during a news conference to explain what border communities are asking for in the context of immigration reform. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Congressman Beto O'Rourke, center, speaks at a new conference accompanied by Lillian D'Amico, left, mother of a deceased veteran, and Melinda Russel, a former Army chaplain, in El Paso, Texas, Wednesday, June. 4, 2014. A survey of hundreds of West Texas veterans conducted by O'Rourke's office has found that on average they wait more than two months to see a Veterans Affairs mental health professional and even longer to see a physician. (AP Photo/Juan Carlos Llorca)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 29: U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas, asks a question of former Army Capt. Debra Gipson during a House Veterans' Affairs Committee, Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee hearing on 'Defined Expectations: Evaluating VA's Performance in the Service Member Transition Process' in the Cannon House Office Building, May 29, 2014, in Washington, DC. Ms. Gipson suffered a severe back injury while en route to Afghanistan. (Photo by Rod Lamkey/Getty Images)
Democratic candidate for the US Senate Beto ORourke addresses his last public event in Austin before election night at the Pan American Neighborhood Park on November 4, 2018 in Austin, Texas. - One of the most expensive and closely watched Senate races is in Texas, where incumbent Republican Senator Ted Cruz is facing Democratic Representative Beto O'Rourke. O'Rourke, 46, whose given names are Robert Francis but who goes by Beto, is mounting a suprisingly strong challenge to the 47-year-old Cruz in the reliably Republican 'Lone Star State.' O'Rourke, a three-term congressman and former member of a punk band, is drawing enthusiastic support from many urban dwellers in Texas while Cruz does better in conservative rural areas. Plucking the Senate seat from Cruz, who battled Donald Trump for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, would be a major victory for the Democratic Party. (Photo by SUZANNE CORDEIRO / AFP) (Photo credit should read SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP/Getty Images)
Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas, of El Paso, Texas, speaks at the University of Texas at Dallas Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, in Richardson, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas, walks during a protest march in downtown Dallas, Sunday, April 9, 2017. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas, left, and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, right, take part in a debate for the Texas U.S. Senate, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018, in San Antonio. (Tom Reel/San Antonio Express-News via AP, Pool)
Texas Congressman Beto ORourke gives his concession speech during the election night party at Southwest University Park in downtown El Paso on November 6, 2018. - After a close race for senate, ORourke conceded to incumbent Ted Cruz in his home town. (Photo by Paul Ratje / AFP) (Photo credit should read PAUL RATJE/AFP/Getty Images)
Former Democratic Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke gestures during a live interview with Oprah Winfrey on a Times Square stage at "Oprah's SuperSoul Conversations from Times Square," Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019, in New York. O'Rourke dazzled Democrats in 2018 by nearly defeating Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in the country's largest red state. O'Rourke says he'll announce whether he'll run for president "before the end of the month." (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Can the others stay in the race?

The DNC’s standards for inclusion in the first round of debates were fairly broad: Amass at least 65,000 individual donors, including at least 200 in each of 20 states, or 1 percent support in three national or early primary-state polls. Which is why 20 candidates qualified.

But the bar is being raised significantly for the second round of debates this fall: candidates will need at least 130,000 donors, including a minimum of 400 each in 20 states, and at least 2 percent support in four national or early primary-state polls.

That means Castro, Ryan, Gabbard, Inslee, de Blasio and Delaney — none of whom are averaging more than 1 percent in national polls — will have to get noticed somehow if they hope to survive.

How exactly they do that is a puzzle each individual candidate will have to solve. (De Blasio in particular has tried on several occasions, with dismal results. But while the road ahead is daunting, it’s not impossible.

As FiveThirtyEight’s Julia Azari recently pointed out, studies have shown that “debates have the most impact when voters have relatively little information about the candidates and it’s still early in the election cycle” — and “that they’re also most useful when the field is crowded” because “they can help lesser-known candidates appear electable.”

In other words, if you’re barely registering in the polls, the time to make your move is now.

Read more from Yahoo News:

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.