What to watch in the debate tonight

What to watch in the debate tonight
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Just like a never ending rerun of “I Love Lucy,” the television selection for the country tonight offers yet another episode of the Democratic debate. The supporting characters always come and go, but everything else looks and sounds pretty much the same. Except that the debate in Las Vegas does offer some potential twists and turns to watch for.

First, Mike Bloomberg will make his debut. He takes his place on the stage just as his place in national polls is on the rise. The challenge is that it is much easier getting to the top than staying there. Bloomberg is the perfect foil for Sanders and the ire against capitalism, and he is currently drawing votes from the moderate wing of the party. This means he will be a target of everyone on stage. Tonight, for the first time, he goes face to face with them. His strategic objective is to leave unscathed.

Second, candidates will try to blunt Bernie SandersBernie SandersMcConnell accuses Democrats of sowing division by 'downplaying progress' on election security The Hill's Campaign Report: Arizona shifts towards Biden | Biden prepares for drive-in town hall | New Biden ad targets Latino voters Why Democrats must confront extreme left wing incitement to violence MORE. He is the front runner based on Iowa and New Hampshire, which is also like saying the Mets are likely to win the World Series based on pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training last week. A convincing victory in Nevada will solidify his status going into Super Tuesday in two weeks. Expect his opponents to remind us about the 155 million Americans who could be forced off their private insurance policies under “Medicare For All,” which is a particularly unpopular idea with the important culinary workers union in Nevada.

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Third, is there still momentum for Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharEPA delivers win for ethanol industry angered by waivers to refiners It's time for newspapers to stop endorsing presidential candidates Biden marks anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, knocks Trump and McConnell MORE? In politics, timing is everything, and she has demonstrated how to play the clock. Klobuchar is surging at just the right time, particularly after her standout performance in the last debate. The objective for her opponents is to stop her forward momentum before it is too late. Remember Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter came out of nowhere to win their nominations.

Fourth, is Joe BidenJoe BidenCast of 'Parks and Rec' reunite for virtual town hall to address Wisconsin voters Biden says Trump should step down over coronavirus response Biden tells CNN town hall that he has benefited from white privilege MORE back and “Berra” than ever? Baseball legend Yogi Berra famously said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” For opponents of Biden, they are asking, “Is now a good time?” Biden needs strong showings in Nevada and South Carolina to stay viable. As New York Times columnist David Leonhardt reminded us this week, John McCain entered the 2008 race “as a potential front runner, only to struggle” but nonetheless won the nomination. For full disclosure, my name appears on a delegate petition for Biden in New York and I have donated to his campaign.

Finally, this town is simply not big enough for two mayors. Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegBogeymen of the far left deserve a place in any Biden administration Overnight Defense: Woodward book causes new firestorm | Book says Trump lashed out at generals, told Woodward about secret weapons system | US withdrawing thousands of troops from Iraq A socially and environmentally just way to fight climate change MORE has owned the brand on the campaign trail of a moderate mayor who can solve problems. However, the population of South Bend is about half the population of the South Bronx. Mayor Pete has an imperative to maintain his impressive vote share and not lose brand or votes to Mayor Mike.

So tune in to the debate tonight. Or you can try Doctor Pimple Popper on the Learning Channel. There, a knife in the back works out just fine.

Steve IsraelSteven (Steve) J. IsraelThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump, Biden intensify battleground focus as 2020 race tightens Biden allies express confidence as convention begins The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden closes in on vice presidential pick MORE represented New York in Congress for 16 years and served as the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2011 to 2015. He is now the director of the Institute of Politics and Global Affairs at Cornell University. You can find him on Twitter @RepSteveIsrael.