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First Dem Debates Wednesday Night      06/26 06:01

   Ten presidential candidates, led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, will converge on 
the debate stage on Wednesday on the first night of Democratic debates to offer 
their pitches to voters and attempt a breakout moment for their campaigns.

   MIAMI (AP) -- Ten presidential candidates, led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 
will converge on the debate stage on Wednesday on the first night of Democratic 
debates to offer their pitches to voters and attempt a breakout moment for 
their campaigns.

   For many of the White House hopefuls, it will be the highest-profile 
opportunity yet to offer their vision for the country and, if for just two 
hours, chip into a political news cycle often dominated by President Donald 
Trump. Given the massive field , the debate will be split over two nights , 
with 10 other candidates --- including former Vice President Joe Biden and 
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders --- appearing Thursday.

   But on opening night, Warren will take center stage. The Massachusetts 
senator's constant stream of policy proposals has helped her campaign gain 
ground. Strategists say that Warren, widely viewed as a talented debater, is 
well positioned to showcase her strengths.

   "I don't think anyone else on that night has her level of skill and her 
level of experience in this format," said Maria Cardona, a Democratic 
strategist. "I think she should look at this as an opportunity to really shine 
and come out of the first night as the one that is dominating the conversation."

   Yet Warren could still face challenges. The other candidates on stage 
Wednesday aren't as well known and could use the moment to take aggressive 
stances against Warren in an effort to find a breakout moment.

   "She's liable to have a target on her back and a lot of people potentially 
coming after her on that stage," said Charles Chamberlain, the chairman of the 
progressive political action committee Democracy for America. "But on the other 
hand, that will let people see how she handles attacks and can fend them off."

   Asked whether she felt the pressure of effectively being the front-runner 
during the first debate, Warren shrugged off her center-stage position.

   "This is just a chance to be able to talk to people all across this country 
about how this government works better and better and better for a thinner and 
thinner slice at the top, and it's just not working for the rest of America, 
she told reporters after her Tuesday rally in Miami. "2020's our chance to 
change that.""

   Beyond Warren, the candidates who will debate on Wednesday are Sens. Cory 
Booker of New Jersey and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Reps. Tulsi Gabbard of 
Hawaii and Tim Ryan of Ohio and former Reps. Beto O'Rourke of Texas and John 
Delaney of Maryland, along with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, New York Mayor Bill 
de Blasio and ex-Obama housing secretary Julin Castro.

   One split that could emerge Wednesday centers on "Medicare for All," the 
single-payer health plan introduced by Sanders and supported by Warren and 
others. But some candidates are not fully on board, preferring more incremental 
reforms. Delaney has been especially vocal in his criticism.

   With so many White House hopefuls on stage, it could be difficult to dive 
too deep on any given issue. NBC News, which is hosting the debate, said 
candidates will have 60 seconds to answer questions and 30 seconds for 
follow-ups. They will be allowed closing statements but no openers.

   All the candidates are competing ahead of a major fundraising deadline that 
will have lasting implications. The end of the second fundraising quarter on 
Sunday gives candidates a chance to make a splash with strong numbers ahead of 
the mid-July deadline to report that information to the Federal Election 

   A strong debate performance could fuel more donations, which is critical to 
the candidates' ability to participate in future debates. The Democratic 
National Committee is enforcing more stringent requirements for participating 
in the presidential primary debates this fall, so candidates who are struggling 
to gain a foothold may not have another similar opportunity on a nationally 
televised stage unless they are able to significantly boost their standing in 
the polls and fundraising numbers.

   "For some of them, this might be their best opportunity to land a blow," 
said Joel Payne, a Democratic strategist.

   The debate will unfold as many Democratic voters are just beginning to tune 

   Only 35% of registered Democrats say they're paying close attention to the 
campaign, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for 
Public Affairs Research. Two-thirds say they're paying some or no attention.

   "People may have heard (the candidates') names, but they couldn't pick them 
out and don't know much about them," said Jesse Ferguson, a veteran Democratic 
strategist. "None of them are going to seal the deal in the first debate, but 
they need to get people interested enough to want to learn more.

   The debate's second night on Thursday features more of the leading Democrats 
in the race. Biden will stand at center stage with Sanders at his left and 
Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, at his right. The former vice 
president has come under fire from fellow Democrats after recently recalling 
that the Senate was once a more civil place, pointing to his work with two 
segregationist former senators.

   Several of the candidates went to Florida early to raise money or court 
voters in the critical battleground state. Buttigieg held two Florida 
fundraisers on Monday night and stayed in Florida for debate prep. Warren, 
meanwhile, was in the state Tuesday to campaign for her new proposal to boost 
election security.

   Not to be outdone, Vice President Mike Pence was also in Miami on Tuesday to 
launch "Latinos for Trump" as part of an effort to engage Latino voters for 
2020. The Trump campaign said it was running ads in Wednesday's Miami Herald 
and El Nuevo Herald touting the president's achievements on behalf of Latinos.


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