These and other story-lines will play out Tuesday evening in the now-Republican state of Ohio
WASHINGTON D.C. (Texas Insider Report) Can Joe Biden no longer the front-runner explain why America should move past the Ukraine business dealings of his son? Bernie Sanders is recovering from a heart attack.
These and other story-lines will play out on national television Tuesday evening in the now-Republican state of Ohio where the largest debate group in modern history 12 candidates will share the stage with less than four months to go before the first 2020 primary votes are cast.
The state of the Democrats 2020 race has shifted and at least five big questions need to be addressed during tonights debate carried on CNN.
1.) HOW WILL BIDEN DEFEND HIMSELF & HIS FAMILY?
At a pivotal point he must now execute an effective strategy to move past baseless allegations fueled by President Donald Trump about Bidens sons business dealings abroad. Biden enters the night already on his heels having lost his sole claim to front-runner status thanks to Warrens rise.
Should Biden fail to navigate the delicate issue he risks being haunted by the controversy into the general election should he be the nominee. In Bidens way is his own temperament.
The 76-year-old Democrat is well known for being defensive when challenged. Look for him to get some help from fellow Democrats like Julin Castro or Beto ORourke who have lashed out at Trumps tactics against Biden recently.
But there are also wildcards onstage who may lean into questions about the younger Bidens work for a Ukrainian energy company while his father was vice president.
If he loses his cool onstage Biden could win the argument and still walk out a loser.
2.) WILL IMPEACHMENT CONSUME THE DEBATE?
All the candidates onstage have endorsed the impeachment inquiry into Trump which has consumed much of the political world in recent weeks. But some Democrats have embraced the divisive process more reluctantly than others.
Warren for example called for Trump to be impeached nearly six months ago while Biden announced his support for impeachment only last week. Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard was also late to sign on warning that the impeachment process would further split an already divided nation.
Its unclear how impeachment may shape the debate on Tuesday but what Democrats say or dont say about removing a sitting president less than a year before the election could come back to haunt the party when Democrats eventually take back the White House.
3.) WILL BERNIES HEART ATTACK BECOME AN ASSET?
Less than two weeks after being rushed to the hospital 78-year-old Bernie Sanders must convince voters that hes physically strong enough to survive the intense campaign ahead and more importantly one of the worlds most demanding jobs.
Supporters suggest the Vermont senator can use the health crisis to his advantage by refocusing the conversation on health care.
Others are hopeful he can use the experience to open up to voters on a more personal level something he tried to do early in the year with little sustained success.
Health is a delicate issue but Sanders was aware that his age was a political liability even before his recent health scare.
4.) HOW WILL WARREN HANDLE THE FRONT-RUNNER FOCUS?
According to polls Elizabeth Warren enters the night as a front-runner for the first time essentially tied with Biden. If recent days are any indication she could be in line for far more scrutiny than she received in the first three debates.
She has an opportunity to stand up to her critics which could help improve the perception that shes among the least electable Democrats in the race.
Its no small task.
On one side shes getting hit for being too liberal. On the other shes getting hit for being a capitalist.
Shes also facing new questions about her biography that strike at the core of any successful candidacy: authenticity.
5.) IS 12 CANDIDATES ON STAGE TOO MANY?
Even with only 10 on the stage in past debates moderators have been challenged to foster meaningful exchanges that help voters navigate differences among the candidates. Will two more make it even worse?
Some candidates certainly think so.
So far the crowded stages have largely produced status-quo debates in which few candidates have enough time to help or hurt themselves significantly. Thats been good news for the top-tier candidates and not-so-good news for those struggling near the bottom.
Given that this could be the last opportunity for several lower-tier candidates on the debate stage because of tougher qualification thresholds those in the bottom of the pack must find enough oxygen to break out any way they can.