The US democratic process is an unending cycle and the race for the White House in 2020 arguably began the same month that President Trump was inaugurated, when he lodged his candidacy for re-election. That electoral cycle has been gathering speed throughout 2019 and on Wednesday night, we reach an important milestone on the road to November 2020 with the first Democratic debate.
The field of contenders for the Democratic nomination is so crowded that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) has had to restrict this debate process to twenty, with ten candidates taking the stage on Wednesday night and another ten on Thursday.
In recent days, the odds in the Democratic Nomination markets have steadied as the candidates prepare for their public performances, and that means Joe Biden goes into this week’s test with a handy lead over his rivals. Biden is rated as a 9/4 shot to gain the nomination with most bookmakers, while Elizabeth Warren, who has been gaining ground on the former Vice President has sneaked past Bernie Sanders (11/2) to become the second favourite at 5/1. That leading trio are closely followed by Pete Buttigieg (6/1) and Kamala Harris (7/1) with the rest available at double figure prices.
But despite his lead, Biden goes into these debates as an uneasy favourite. As the candidate with the biggest name recognition, he has dominated the polls so far, but the debates are where the campaign proper begins, and where lesser known candidates can make a name for themselves. And Biden appears to have got the tougher draw in Thursday’s event. He will be up against three of his four main rivals: Sanders, Harris and Buttigieg, while Warren will be the leading contender on Wednesday.
And while these debates will be vital for the likes of Harris and Buttigieg to raise their profile, they will be just as crucial for Biden, who has run a lacklustre campaign, dogged by criticisms of everything from his personal communication style to comments he has made and policy positions on emotive issues such as race, abortion and LGBTQ rights. He still has a big advantage, but his team will be praying for an impressive and gaffe-free debate performance this week.