The second round of Democratic presidential debates are this week. On Tuesday, Texan Beto O’Rourke will share the stage with candidates deemed to have some of the most progressive platforms, including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. And on Wednesday, Julián Castro, the other Texan in the race, will debate against front-runner Joe Biden.
Gromer Jeffers is a political reporter for The Dallas Morning News covering the debates from Detroit, and says they will be “critical” events for both Texans.
“They both are down in the polls, especially Castro,” Jeffers says. “But even O’Rourke, he started, leading that second tier, behind Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. But after the launch, he kind of collapsed. … He has a lot at stake tonight.”
He says if O’Rourke wants to stay in the race, he’ll have to have “crisp, clean” answers, and really convey his values and goals to a broad audience. Jeffers says O’Rourke could also benefit from promoting his more moderate stance.
“He is more moderate than the two front-runners on the stage tonight: Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders,” Jeffers says. “He has to try to distinguish himself from those guys in that way.”
Right now, among the more moderate candidates, Joe Biden is dominating. And Jeffers says polls show that Democratic voters want a candidate who can beat President Donald Trump, and someone who isn’t too extreme, politically.
On Wednesday night, Julián Castro will debate along with leading candidates, Sen. Kamala Harris and Biden, and Jeffers says that’s a lucky break. (The debate lineups are partially decided by a random drawing.)
“He got lucky in the draw, because you wanna be on the stage with the true front-runner, so he’s onstage with Joe Biden,” Jeffers says. “That gives him an opportunity to try to shoot at the ‘king’ if he wants.”
Castro has generated a lot of interest in his campaign since the last debate, so Jeffers says this second debate will be a chance for him to capitalize on that attention.
Texas Democrats watching the debates should look for the candidate who has the best chance of influencing down-ballot races in Texas in 2020, Jeffers says.
“You want the best, top-of-the-ticket person out there to wage war against Donald Trump and the Republicans in Texas in 2020,” Jeffers says. “That could be an epic fight.”
He says it won’t be easy, especially in the race to try to unseat longtime Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn. But he says if Democrats succeed in Texas, it will have a broader effect.
“If Democrats take Texas, it’s kind of game over,” Jeffers says. “So, listen to the candidate that’s best prepared to win in Texas,” he advises debate watchers.
Written by Caroline Covington.