Democratic Candidates Raring to Go in Detroit

DETROIT (CN) — Democratic candidates for president converge in downtown Detroit this week for two nights of debate on CNN. Nine of them already appeared in the area last week at the NAACP’s national convention.

Democratic presidential candidates from left, author Marianne Williamson, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Vice-President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., wave as they enter the stage for the second night of the Democratic primary debate hosted by NBC News at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts on June 27 in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

The Tuesday and Wednesday night debate lineup was set via a random drawing broadcast on CNN on July 18 that created some matchups that could spark confrontations, as frontrunner Joe Biden will share the stage with Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, neither of whom has been shy about criticizing the former vice president.

Biden, who did not enter the race until April, has remained the top pick for most Democrats since January, with 33% of likely voters in a July 23 Morning Consult poll backing him.

Booker recently took aim at Biden’s suggestions on improving the criminal justice system. Booker called Biden a “proud architect of a failed system” and said he was not the right person to champion criminal justice reform.

Biden has vowed to defend himself when he spoke to donors at a fundraiser in Detroit last week.

“I’m not going to be as polite this time,” Biden said, referring to his sparring with Sen. Kamala Harris of California in the first debate. “Because this is the same person who asked me to come to California and nominate her in her convention.”

The first night of debates on Tuesday will be the first time the leading progressives, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, will share the stage. Warren recently unveiled a plan to conditionally forgive student loan debt, and doesn’t want to stop there.

By taxing the ultra-rich two cents on the dollar for every dollar they make over $50 million, Warren promised to provide universal childcare for every baby, universal pre-K for every child, raise the wages of childcare and preschool workers and provide tuition-free community college.

“You’re thinking, two, cents — is she right about that?” said Warren, a former college professor. “Uh, yes. I’ve done the math.”

Sanders wants to go even further and eliminate all of the student loan debt — $1.6 trillion worth — with a 0.5% tax on Wall Street stock trades, and smaller taxes on bond trades and derivatives. He said such taxes could raise $2.4 trillion over 10 years.

Sanders stumped in Windsor, Michigan on Sunday night, near the Canadian border in Windsor, blasting the high cost of prescription drug prices in the United States that force people to head north.

“How does it happen 10 minutes away from the American border in Michigan, people here are paying one-tenth of the price for the vitally important drug they need to stay alive?” Sanders asked.

Beto O’Rourke, who will also appear Tuesday night, visited Flint last week and hosted a town hall with 200 citizens.

“I want to make sure this country has your back so that you can deliver the best possible instruction and care for our kids and the future of this great nation,” the former Texas congressman told teachers in the crowd.

Booker visited Flint hours before O’Rourke appeared. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand also visited the beleaguered city infamous for lead-tainted water pipes, and former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro stopped there in June.

Pete Buttigieg spoke at a small grassroots fundraiser in downtown Detroit Sunday night and minced no words.

“The president of the United States thinks you’re a sucker,” Buttigieg said. “He thinks he can get you to think the biggest problem in your life is political correctness, when the biggest problem in your life is you’re not getting paid enough.”

The debate will be held at the Fox Theatre where in 2016 then-candidate Trump spoke about his large hands and called Sen. Marco Rubio “Little Marco” in a Republican debate that did nothing to slow Trump’s momentum to the White House.

The candidates will be given 60 seconds to respond to a moderator-directed question, and 30 seconds for responses and rebuttals.

In addition, the campaign representatives were told:

  • Colored lights will be used to help the candidates manage their remaining response times: 15 seconds = yellow; 5 seconds = flashing red; no time remaining = solid red.
  • A candidate attacked by name by another candidate will be given 30 seconds to respond.
  • There will be no shows of hands or one-word, down-the-line questions.
  • A candidate who consistently interrupts will have his or her time reduced.
  • Questions posed by the moderators will appear on the bottom of the screen for television viewers.
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