Sunday’s Democratic Debate: What Time It Is and What to Watch for

  • The Democratic presidential debate is 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Eastern time. Because of concerns about the coronavirus, the debate was moved from Phoenix to Washington, D.C. There will be no studio audience.

  • On Tuesday, Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio will host Democratic primaries. Here’s what those states are doing to make sure voting can take place safely.

  • The large field of Democrats is now down to only two major candidates: former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

  • The moderators will be Dana Bash and Jake Tapper from CNN and Ilia Calderón from Univision.

  • The New York Times will have extensive debate coverage, including a live analysis throughout the event.

Join us for live analysis on debate night. Subscribe to “On Politics,” and we’ll send you a link.

Mr. Biden has moved from faltering candidate to dominant front-runner in a dizzyingly quick time span, and his allies are sounding confident notes as the race moves into big, delegate-rich states like Florida and Ohio in primaries on Tuesday.

But first, Mr. Biden faces a one-on-one debate against Mr. Sanders — and throughout this campaign, the former vice president has struggled at times in the debate stage spotlight. While in several recent contests, candidates have trained their fire on other contenders, now Mr. Biden will share the scrutiny with just one other opponent onstage after a dramatic winnowing of the field.

Mr. Biden’s supporters say that he is stronger in formats that allow him more time to make his point — televised town halls, for instance.

But Mr. Sanders will also have plenty of time to press Mr. Biden on the liberal priorities that the Vermont senator holds dear. Can Mr. Biden hold his own and advance a forward-looking agenda, or will he grow defensive under pressure? And more critically, can he deliver a commanding performance that reassures Democrats as he surges toward the nomination? Or will he stumble and stoke doubts?

As the nation grapples with the coronavirus crisis, voters will be looking to Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders for a sense of how they would lead a nation under extreme duress. Sunday night’s debate offers the chance for both men to take the cases they have been making in recent days onto the national stage after the epidemic forced them to pull back from large-scale campaign events.

Mr. Sanders, who has issued recommendations — including for the government to offer treatment free of charge and expand anti-hunger initiatives aimed at the poor — has also used the outbreak to push anew for “Medicare for all,” his signature single-payer health care proposal.

Mr. Biden has unfurled a plan of his own, as well as a “Public Health Advisory Committee” featuring prominent health care leaders, seeking at every turn to “offer a view into how Biden will lead in times of crisis as president,” as one Biden official described a Thursday speech Mr. Biden delivered on the matter. His allies argue that in times of crisis — whether it’s the coronavirus outbreak or, earlier this year, tensions with Iran — Mr. Biden is seen by voters as a steady, experienced hand.

His task on Sunday will be to communicate that image to the voters tuning in to the debate.

Mr. Sanders’s decision to stay in the presidential race after a disastrous showing in last week’s primaries was partly tied to this debate.

His advisers and supporters have pointed to it as an opportunity for him to fully contrast his ideas against Mr. Biden — someone who has had consistent flubs in previous debates. However, there is some disagreement about what tone Mr. Sanders will strike in this debate, given his slim electoral chances.

The most die-hard supporters want him to savage Mr. Biden personally and politically, a last chance to revive the primary fight between the party’s moderate and progressive ideological wings.

But this seems unlikely — Mr. Sanders has treated Mr. Biden fairly cordially throughout the primary, and has consistently pledged to support and campaign for whomever is the Democratic nominee. Mr. Sanders is more likely to prod Mr. Biden in the hope of winning concessions on key progressive issues such as climate change and health care.

From the beginning of Sunday’s event, it should become clear which path Mr. Sanders is taking: the no-holds-barred approach to blunt Mr. Biden’s sense of inevitability, or a more conciliatory tone.

Continue reading at New York Times