Political News

We've reached the final Democratic debate of 2019

Posted December 19, 2019 6:31 p.m. EST

— Fun fact: This is the smallest number of candidates onstage thus far this cycle (a slim seven!).

Joe Biden should feel confident heading into Thursday night's debate.

He's mostly regained his footing in the polls, including CNN's latest poll, which finds him leading the pack with 26% support among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents.

Of course, a strong polling performance pre-debate does not beget a strong debate performance. Biden knows this perhaps better than anyone else onstage. It's up to him to maintain that rediscovered momentum in his final debate appearance of the year.

This week's court ruling on Obamacare means we could have a timely opening for a health care discussion onstage -- which could tee up some policy-heavy conflict between Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg. The two have seemingly traded barbs more than others in the field, and either one could benefit from the other's debate stage stumble.

And then there's Bernie Sanders! The Vermont independent's second place showing in CNN's poll (at 20%) isn't to be dismissed, either. The senator bounced back from his heart attack earlier this fall with a strong performance in October's debate and has since maintained his top-tier polling status. This debate could be another chance to convince supporters to stick with him in 2020.

One note about timing here: This debate comes after a highly newsy week in politics (hello, impeachment!) and ahead of an extended holiday break (hello, Hanukkah and Christmas and New Year's!).  How much will a strong (or weak!) debate performance stick when news cycles and attention spans shift elsewhere? We'll find out soon enough.

The Point: Don't look now, but the final debate of the year is here. How far we've come! 

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