U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren will look to rejuvenate her presidential campaign in a primary debate tonight largely overshadowed by the impeachment proceedings against President Trump, political observers say.
After climbing steadily in the polls through most of the year, Warren now finds herself in a slump nationally and in the early states of Iowa and New Hampshire. She’s been battered over the rollout of her “Medicare for All” plan and has been battling moderate South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg — who has risen amid her fall — over health care and campaign transparency.
“It’s a really important debate for her,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. “It’s an inflection-point debate because she really needs something to jump-start her polling in early states and also her fundraising.”
Paleologos said Warren will have to decide whether to engage Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden, the leading moderates in the field who will flank the Massachusetts senator onstage in Los Angeles. Or she may choose to finally go after fellow U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and make her play for his portion of the progressive base.
Warren could also have to watch out for U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, another moderate foil who is building momentum in Iowa and remains the second highest-polling woman in the race, Paleologos said.
But Democratic strategist Tony Cignoli said Warren needs to focus less on attacking her rivals and more on making her case to early state voters.
“Going after the other candidates, that’s just not working this cycle. People who are in the Democratic Party are looking for the candidate that’s going to give them a real feeling of ‘I can make a difference in your life,’ ” Cignoli said. “She’s got the real ability to do that, but she’s got to get back on track.”
Entrepreneur Andrew Yang and billionaire Tom Steyer round out the field of seven candidates set to debate tonight in a contest nearly derailed by a labor dispute and dogged by concerns it includes just one candidate of color, Yang, out of the most diverse primary field in United States history.
And impeachment has hung over it all.
“They’ve got to change the subject,” said pollster John Zogby. “They need to talk about infrastructure, the minimum wage and health care for all — and hammer on that.”
The PBS NewsHour/Politico debate goes live at 8 p.m. on PBS stations and CNN.