The Democratic presidential race’s new pecking order will be on full display Wednesday night, with Pete Buttigieg taking the debate stage as the emerging front-runner in Iowa and top 2020 rivals Joe Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren trying to knock him off that perch.
Buttigieg’s 9 percentage-point lead over the pack in Iowa is a sign of strength for the party’s moderates as they try to convince voters that progressives such as Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders are too far left to be viable opponents to President Donald Trump in 2020, particularly among swing voters who will play a crucial role in the general election.
The fifth Democratic debate will be held in Atlanta at 9 p.m. Eastern time and will be hosted by MSNBC and the Washington Post. The choice of venue is also a signal of the party’s desire to put Georgia in play for the presidential race and a pick-up opportunity for two Senate seats.
Taking place at Tyler Perry Studios, which was built where a Confederate Army post once stood, the debate will likely have a significant focus on issues of race and voter suppression in the aftermath of concerns about the 2018 governor’s race that Democrat Stacey Abrams narrowly lost.
Buttigieg, in particular, has struggled to gain support among black voters, a crucial Democratic constituency. In South Carolina, a state where the majority of Democratic voters are black, he is polling at less than 1% among black voters.
His campaign has also come under fire for using a stock photo of a Kenyan woman to promote his Douglass Plan, named for the abolitionist Frederick Douglass and intended to address systemic racism. And several people who were listed among South Carolinians who endorsed the plan criticized the campaign for erroneously suggesting that they supported Buttigieg’s candidacy.
Also looming over the debate are comments made by former President Barack Obama last week that struck some of the biggest fault lines in the party.
Buttigieg in Rivals’ Sights at Debate After Taking Lead in Iowa
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