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Tonight, I’m writing to you from Columbus, Ohio, where The New York Times has descended in force for the biggest presidential primary debate in history. This one is particularly exciting for those of us at the paper, since The Times is co-hosting the debate with CNN and our own Marc Lacey will be one of the moderators. More on that in a minute.
Tonight is also an exciting milestone for this little newsletter.
Starting this week, we’ll be appearing in your inbox five evenings a week. We have tons of exciting things ahead — impeachment and primaries and a general election, oh my!
Sign up, forward us to your friends and get them to sign up, and as always, thanks for reading.
Now, back to the debate. Tuesday night’s event comes at a truly extraordinary moment in American politics. In Washington, the impeachment inquiry into President Trump is moving forward at a dizzying pace.
Senator Bernie Sanders is out of the hospital, former Vice President Joe Biden is out of patience and Senator Elizabeth Warren seems out to get Facebook.
With a dozen candidates stuffed onstage, there are bound to be some fireworks.
Here’s some of what we’ll be watching:
Biden wrestles with impeachment
On Sunday, Mr. Biden’s son Hunter Biden said he would step down from his board position at a Chinese investment firm. On Monday, Mr. Biden released a government ethics plan. On Tuesday, Hunter Biden will do a major television interview.
Seems as if Mr. Biden and his team want to make sure he has plenty to talk about Tuesday night when it comes to his family, ethics and Mr. Trump.
The challenge for Mr. Biden will be whether he can leverage the fact that Mr. Trump now faces impeachment proceedings because of the president’s efforts to collect opposition research on him and his son, without getting stuck in a morass of questions about his own family.
Is Bernie back?
After being hospitalized for a heart attack, Mr. Sanders, 78, needs to convince voters that he is not too old to be president. The debate signifies his return to the race: He has remained off the campaign trail since Oct. 1, when he had two stents inserted to clear a blocked artery after experiencing chest pains at a campaign event.
Aides to Mr. Sanders rebuffed questions asked by my colleague Sydney Ember about whether he’d be able to stand so long on a stage, but they fully realize that his energy, vibrancy and ability will be under intense scrutiny from voters.
Warren takes incoming
Ms. Warren’s surge in the polls has finally reached the point where it has become problematic for Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders. Both men have signaled that attacks could be coming, with Mr. Sanders drawing a pretty sharp contrast over the weekend.
It’s likely that some of those attacks will focus on her health care plan: how she would pay for it, whether she would raise taxes on the middle class, whether she would end private insurance plans and how she would accommodate union health plans.
Will Ms. Warren be ready with more polished answers than she has given in the past?
Whither Mayor Pete?
Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., has the most field offices in the early states (tied with Ms. Warren) and a generous campaign bank account (only Mr. Sanders has raised more among Democrats). What he lacks is actual traction in the polls.
So far, most of his debate performances have been characterized by “West Wing”-style monologues. But there are signs he may pivot to a more aggressive tack Tuesday night in hopes of expanding his support. In recent weeks, he has nudged Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders on health care and has been in something of a sniper fight with former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas.
There have been plenty of signs that the two young guns in the race may be headed for a shootout at the Otterbein University Corral. The question is whether that will be enough for either to make a mark.
Does anyone else break out of the pack?
Four candidates on the stage haven’t qualified for the next debate in November: the former housing secretary Julián Castro, Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Mr. O’Rourke. Tuesday night is a now-or-never moment for them.
Expect some fireworks — or at least an attempt to light a fuse.
What do Tom Steyer and Tulsi Gabbard do?
For Mr. Steyer, it’s his first time in a primary debate. He’s an actual billionaire standing onstage at a time when several candidates have built populist campaigns running against the billionaires. But he’s also one of the most progressive candidates in the field on issues like climate change and impeachment.
As for Ms. Gabbard, her campaign has emerged as one of the biggest mysteries of the 2020 race. After threatening last week to boycott the debate, she is now planning to appear.
She could attack the entire political class, the Democratic Party and the media. Or not!
No one quite knows what to expect from either one of these iconoclastic competitors.
Can’t get enough debate coverage?
Here’s our list of who has qualified for the stage. Check out our visual guide to the debate. You can also read the live chat we did today and listen to the preview conference call we did for subscribers.
Tuesday, you can watch the CNN/New York Times debate with us. Join us on nytimes.com or the NYTimes app for the live video and our live chat starting at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time. (I’ll be moderating! The debate itself starts at 8.)
And if you happen to be in the Columbus area Tuesday evening, I’ll be appearing with a panel of my New York Times colleagues to discuss what we expect to see at the debate. R.S.V.P. here.
After the debate, on Wednesday, politics editor Patrick Healy, national political correspondent Jonathan Martin and politics reporter Katie Glueck will parse the standout moments. Dial in to ask your questions and discuss the takeaways from the night before.
Drop us a line!
We want to hear from our readers. Have a question? We’ll try to answer it. Have a comment? We’re all ears. Email us at email@example.com.
How do you prepare to moderate a debate?
Our National editor, Marc Lacey, has held a lot of the biggest jobs at The New York Times: White House correspondent, a foreign correspondent who has reported from dozens of countries and the editor of the weekend news report.
Now, he is about to take on perhaps his highest-profile task yet — moderating the Democratic primary debate.
We had some questions about that. Marc was kind enough to give us some answers. But, sadly, not the questions.
So, a dozen candidates on the stage, a nonstop flood of Big Breaking News out of Washington. How do you prepare for this kind of debate, in this particularly extraordinary moment in American politics?
There are a lot of candidates, no doubt about it. And so many critical issues to ask about. This debate could go on until the sun comes up. But we’ve had to cull the many things we could ask into one meaty debate in one evening.
How important is it to ask about what’s happening with the administration versus what’s happening in Democratic policy circles? Put another way, what’s the balancing act between asking about President Trump and, say, health care policy?
I can’t get into the questions. I’ve been sworn to secrecy.
You’re a print guy about to enter a TV world. Is that nerve-racking?
I’ve been in the hotel gym a couple of times a day to remain calm. I can already do more pull-ups than James Comey has set as his goal.
How much do you take into account what happened at past debates when making your plan of attack for this one?
I’ve watched every previous debate and every candidates’ forum from this election season. That’s hours and hours of preparation.
I know you can’t tell us the questions. But, seriously, can you tell us the questions? Any hints, at least?
There will be questions, many questions, and they will be substantive questions. Does that answer your question?
Any pre-debate rituals?
This is my very first debate, so I have no ritual. I’m open to suggestions. And I’m not certain yet how I will nourish myself immediately beforehand. There’s this great taco joint a couple of blocks from my hotel, though.
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