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Which 2020 Democrats will face increased scrutiny in 5th debate

The fifth debate among candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination is taking place Wednesday night in Atlanta. Since the most recent previous debate, the top tier of candidates has remained largely consistent -- but Pete Buttigieg has experienced a surge in Iowa polls that may open him up to increased scrutiny from his competitors. Amna Nawaz joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Turning now to today's other major televised political event. That is the fifth Democratic presidential debate, this one being held in Atlanta.

    Our Amna Nawaz is there now. And she joins me.

    So, Amna, as we said, it's the fifth in a number of debates for these Democratic candidates. Set the stage for us. What should we be expecting?

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Judy, first, I should point out that even here on the site of the Democratic debate, on all the screens, the impeachment hearings are playing in the background. So there's really no escaping it for the press.

    But, tonight, 10 Democratic candidates will face off on that stage here in Atlanta. Take a look at the lineup in the order they are going to appear on stage tonight. It's Cory Booker, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Kamala Harris, Andrew Yang, and Tom Steyer.

    Now, since the last time they met, the top tier has remained largely consistent, Biden, Warren, Sanders, and Buttigieg. But, most notably, Mayor Pete Buttigieg had a bit of a surge, a multipoint surge in polls in Iowa, giving him a clear lead in that one state.

    That means he's probably opening himself up to some lines of scrutiny, increased scrutiny, from his fellow candidates on the field. We have seen that happen in the past with Biden and with Warren. Buttigieg's campaign is sticking firm in their pre-debate messaging, though.

    They're saying whatever comes his way, he will be ready — Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Amna, when it comes to that scrutiny, what are some of the main policy differences that still exist between these two candidates?

    What are the other campaigns saying they want to get across tonight?

  • Amna Nawaz:


    Some of the clear lines of attacks we have seen against Mayor Buttigieg in the past will probably hold tonight. That is, he has a lack of elective experience there, that is, serving just as the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, also so far his inability to really connect with voters of color, who we know will be crucial to whomever the Democratic nominee ends up being.

    Senator — or, rather, Vice President Biden's campaign has said they are going to be sticking close to their messaging of consistency in the polling, regardless of who is number one or two in certain states, also saying he will continue to present himself as an experienced, steady hand at the wheel on day one if he is to become commander in chief.

    If history is a guide, Senator Warren is going to continue to push her message of big structural change. She's probably going to face some tough questions, as she did last time, about her Medicare for all plan, especially now that she has explained how the timeline would be for the rollout of that.

    And some of the questions could come from her fellow progressive candidate Senator Bernie Sanders.

    As always, of course, though, Judy, this is an opportunity tonight for some of the middle-tier and lower-tier candidates to try to have a moment. It's not going to be easy. The debate is just two hours' long. That means a few minutes of speaking time. They're going to have to make every single minute count, Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, just quickly, finally, Amna, we know these debates always have an effect on what happens in the weeks coming after.

    What are the people you talk to saying about that, especially since the field is still shifting?

  • Amna Nawaz:

    We should note, of course, as you mentioned, there's a new candidate in the field in Deval Patrick. Also, Mayor Bloomberg has been flirting with the idea of getting in.

    The campaigns all say two things are true. One is that it might be a little too late for some of these candidates to get that traction, especially because some of the existing candidates are still fighting for name recognition. But they say the voters will have to decide.

    We will see that unfold on the stage tonight, Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Amna Nawaz, reporting on this debate for us from Atlanta, and we will be looking for your report tomorrow.

    Thank you, Amna.

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