A good overview from First Read:
- The battle on the left: In June, Sanders and Warren appeared on different nights, giving each the opportunity to stake out ground on the left. Competitors seemed particularly reluctant to criticize Warren, which allowed her to occupy that space virtually unscathed on the first night of the first debate. But with Sanders losing ground in recent polls — and Warren rising in both polls and fundraising — both may be eager to create some differentiation between their brands when they share a stage.
- Biden v. Harris, round two: By far, the most memorable exchange of the first debates was Harris’ damaging attack on Biden over bussing and his past comments about segregationists. Biden didn’t seem well-prepared at all for that onslaught in June, but he’ll have to show he’s ready to revisit racial issues when he shares the stage with her again.
- O’Rourke and Buttigieg face off: Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s monster second quarter fundraising haul proved what we’d already had plenty of anecdotal evidence to show — that the South Bend mayor had replaced O’Rourke as the fresh young (white, male) face in the race with a strong donor base and compelling personal story. The two appeared on different nights in June, but Detroit could be O’Rourke’s last best chance to reclaim some of that status (if he still can.)
- One new face on the scene: Montana Gov. Steve Bullock will make his debate debut, replacing recent drop-out Eric Swalwell. But his pitch as a middle-of-the-country moderate who can work with Republicans will have competition from plenty of others on the stage who are eager to make a similar argument, including Buttigieg, Klobuchar and Hickenlooper.
- Night Two candidates probably have an advantage — again: One thing we learned from the first set of debates was that even a candidate who performs well on Night One (i.e. Warren or Castro) gets a maximum of 24 hours of positive coverage before being overshadowed by Night Two’s news. The burden will be on Night One’s contenders in Detroit to break through in a way that keeps them in the spotlight for as long as possible — especially with looming anticipation for Wednesday’s Biden/Harris rematch.