Down two candidates from the last time around, 10 Democratic presidential hopefuls will fill the stage Wednesday night with fewer than 100 days until the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary.
This fifth edition of the Democratic presidential primary debates will be held at the Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, and will be hosted by MSNBC and The Washington Post, airing from 9 to 11 p.m.
Qualifying for this round required candidates to amass 165,000 individual donors and — rather than “or” as in the earlier contests — hit 3 percent support in four DNC-approved national polls or 5 percent in two polls from the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.
“It’s definitely very late now for some candidates on that stage, right?” Dante Scala, a professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, told The Sentinel Tuesday. “... There’s no more warmups at this point.
Scala pointed to the continued rise of Pete Buttigieg as the central dynamic heading into this debate, with rivals aiming to halt the momentum of the 37-year-old mayor from South Bend, Ind.
More professor’s notes from Scala and a primer on each candidate below.
Background: Junior U.S. senator from New Jersey and former mayor of Newark. A Rhodes scholar and graduate of Stanford University — where he played tight end on the football team — Booker’s background has been in community organizing since attending law school at Yale.
Visits to the region: Four, most recently at Keene State in October, along with two others as a declared candidate — in May, at a house party in the Elm City and in August, at the Hillsborough County Democrats’ picnic —and previously during his exploratory-committee phase in December, with another house party in the Elm City
Bonus: When Booker appeared on The Sentinel’s politics podcast, Pod Free or Die, he talked about his Baby Bonds plan, gun control and how his parents bought their first house.
N.H. polling average: 1.8 percent (up from 1.5 percent ahead of the last debate in Ohio)
Professor’s note: “I don’t know if he’s quite in needs-a-miracle territory, but it must be very difficult in his camp not to feel encroaching desperation,” Scala said. “... Going negative is not a strong point for Booker. I’m not sure how well he would do that, and who does he go after now?”
Background: Billionaire investor from California and founder of NextGen America, a nonprofit group pushing for environmental and voting-rights reform
Visits to the region: None
N.H. polling average: 3 percent (up from 2.3)
Professor’s note: “His first debate [in October] did not go well, but it was his first time on the national stage,” Scala said. “... The big thing is, he has to be a presence, because he wasn’t the last time around.”
Background: U.S. representative from Hawaii, who is the first Hindu and first Samoan-American member of Congress. Gabbard also served in a combat medical unit in the National Guard in Iraq.
Visits to the region: At least four. Gabbard was one of the earliest current candidates in the field to come to the Monadnock Region ahead of the midterms before officially declaring, with a stop at Keene Middle School, where she gave an address at a progressive organizing summit with Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry’s fame. Earlier this month, she visited Franklin Pierce University and Keene State College. She has plans for a Jaffrey house party on Friday.
N.H. polling average: 3.5 percent (up from 2.3)
Professor’s note: “Surprisingly enough, things look up for her compared to last time,” Scala said. “If I’m Gabbard, I present pretty well at these debates so far, and I continue to try to present myself as the candidate that the elites love to hate, or love to cast aside.”
Background: Tech entrepreneur and philanthropist from New York
Visits to the region: Five, last year in June at the Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship in Keene and this February at The Works Café in the Elm City before a stop at Post and Beam Brewing in Peterborough, a late-August visit to Keene State, and a September return to Peterborough
Pod Free or Die bonus: Yang was the first guest on the podcast, where he talked about his universal basic income “freedom dividend” plan and his childhood in Upstate New York.
N.H. polling average: 3 percent (up from 2.4)
Professor’s note: “I think Yang just keeps being Yang, in the sense that he has gotten the training wheels off, as far as debates go,” Scala said. “... I don’t know that he has to adjust very much, because I think he’s found his audience.”
Background: The senior U.S. senator from Minnesota, Klobuchar was the Hennepin County attorney before becoming the first woman elected to one of Minnesota’s Senate seats.
Visits to the region: Five, most recently right after the last debate in an appearance at a Keene State College political science class. She made an April visit to Peterborough’s Waterhouse Restaurant, gave a May address as the keynote speaker of the Cheshire County Democrats’ annual spaghetti dinner in Keene, made an August stop in Greenfield for the Hillsborough County Democrats’ Summer Picnic and participated in a business roundtable followed by a Q&A town hall at Stonewall Farm in Keene.
N.H. polling average: 4.3 percent (up from 2.3)
Professor’s note: “She made definite strides last time, and was beginning to contrast effectively against Elizabeth Warren and so forth,” Scala said. “... What will she do when others go after Pete Buttigieg, I think, is a question mark.”
Background: Junior U.S. senator from California; former California attorney general and former San Francisco district attorney
Visits to the region: One, a packed April town hall at Keene State College
N.H. polling average: 2 percent (down from 4.3)
Professor’s note: “Boy, yeah, I suspect that she and Buttigieg are going to have a confrontation,” Scala said. “And I think that Harris, when she’s succeeded, it’s because she and her team had a scenario in mind — almost a scripted moment — that Harris was ready to deploy ... We saw that versus Biden at the beginning of the summer. I suspect that she’ll have the same in store for Buttigieg [on his mayoral record and lack of national support among black voters].”
Background: Mayor of South Bend, Ind.; served in Afghanistan as an intelligence officer in the Navy. Buttigieg is a former Rhodes scholar and would be the first openly gay president.
Visits to the region: Five, once in February at the Orchard School and Community Center in Alstead before declaring his candidacy, then as an official candidate in May at Keene High School and an August house party in Hancock. Most recently, he brought huge crowds to the Peterborough Town House in October and the Walpole Elementary school this month.
Pod Free or Die bonus: Buttigieg talked about his Medicare For All Who Want It health care plan, how Americans compartmentalize the military’s sacrifice abroad and what he thinks of being compared to French President Emmanuel Macron.
N.H. polling average: 16.5 percent (up from 9 percent)
Professor’s note: “I think it will be a real test of his campaign staff to prep the candidate in these mock debates to really think imaginatively about what possibly he could face, and what could be the array of questions he’ll have to confront,” Scala said. “With debates so far … he’s been very much above the fray. That’s about to change.”
Background: Junior U.S. senator from Vermont, formerly the at-large congressman for Vermont and mayor of Burlington; runner-up in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary; remains an independent but caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate
Visits to the region: Three, a full-house rally at The Colonial Theatre in Keene in March and another packed rally at the Peterborough Town House in August. One of Sanders’ first events after his heart attack was an October rally at Keene State College.
Pod Free or Die bonus: From his campaign suite at the N.H. Democratic Party Convention, Sanders chatted about foreign policy and what he wants his legacy to be.
N.H. polling average: 16 percent percent (up from 15.5)
Professor’s note: “I don’t anticipate him going after Buttigieg necessarily; he might try to leave that to others,” Scala said. “He might try to be positive, above the fray, but more personal than he has been. I don’t know if people are going to be targeting him in particular.”
Background: Former vice president; ran for president in 1988 and 2008 and was the U.S. senator from Delaware from 1973-2009
Visits to the region: One, a Keene State rally in late August
Pod Free or Die bonus: Biden gamed out a potential recession, his foreign policy views and how the country has changed since he left the White House.
N.H. polling average: 18 percent (down from 24.3)
Professor’s note: “Once again, stamina issues have been a question for him, in as much as we’ve seen him come out with a good first half-hour, but then as the debate grows long, and perhaps as he grows tired, his answers lose some coherency,” Scala said. “... Second, do you continue to confront Warren, and do you find ways to do that without having one of those moments that turns off female voters?”
Background: Senior U.S. senator from Massachusetts; previously a Harvard Law School professor of bankruptcy law and adviser to federal oversight programs
Pod Free or Die bonus: Warren discussed her wealth tax, the war in Afghanistan and why she doesn’t listen to advice about raising money.
N.H. polling average: 20 percent (down from 27.3)
Professor’s note: “She was basically in Mayor Pete’s spot about a month ago, and it’s been a bit rocky, being the subject of scrutiny, and she is now struggling a bit to find ways to build out her coalition of Democratic voters beyond college-educated, more progressive voters,” Scala said. “And for the first time, the ‘I have a plan’ mantra hasn’t worked quite as well as it has most of the year because of all the controversy over Medicare for all. I think she’ll be in the fray. Buttigieg has singled her out, and I think she’ll do the same in kind.”
The order of candidates listed in this article reflects how they will appear on stage based on their polling — alternating left to right from the outside edges — from lowest nationally in the wings to the highest polling in the middle.
*New Hampshire polling averages are from the RealClear politics algorithm.