Here’s What to Really Expect in Tonight’s Democratic Debate

Kevin E. Schmidt/ZUMA

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I assume you all know this by now, but the first Democratic debate is tonight. It starts at 8:30 pm Eastern on CNN, and I gather that it’s scheduled to go two hours. It was originally going to last three hours—which is flatly insane—but apparently CNN got an earful after the endless slog of the last Republican debate and decided to take pity on us all.

So what can we expect? Really expect? My guesses:

  • The highest polling candidate will be in the center and the lowest polling candidates at the edges. Fox News seems to have set a permanent precedent here.
  • Hillary Clinton will of course get a question or 10 about her email server. She’ll give a standard scripted reply, and the others will all shuffle around nervously when asked to respond. They’d love to take a shot at Hillary, but they’ll be reluctant to look like they’re stooges for Republican conspiracy theories.
  • Bernie Sanders will be asked if he’s really a socialist. Sigh.
  • Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee will both be asked some version of “Why are you here?” This is actually a fair question since neither seems to be running a serious campaign and neither has even the slightest chance of winning.
  • There will be some kind of question about Joe Biden. Everyone will insist that they love Joe and have nothing but the highest regard for him.
  • There will probably be some kind of question that dutifully inventories all the conservative complaints about Obamacare and asks what the candidates are going to do about them.
  • They’ll be asked about Syria, of course. This is an unsolvable problem,1 so no one will offer up anything worthwhile.
  • Hillary will get asked if Bill is a problem for her.
  • We’ll be treated once again to a “fun” question. God only knows what it will be. Favorite song? Craziest Republican? Person they’d like to see on the 10 ruble note?

Anyway, I’ll be liveblogging it. The thought fills me with dread, but I know that when the time comes, I’ll be there. I’ll hate myself for it, but I’ll do it.

1We are opposed to Assad, ISIS, and all the al-Qaeda supported rebel groups in Syria. This is bipartisan, not something unique to President Obama. This means the only groups we support are “moderate” Syrian rebels who are willing to fight ISIS, not Assad. As near as I can tell, such groups basically don’t exist and never have.

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It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you’ll agree is worth supporting.

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