Democrats Take Over Miami

The Democratic presidential debate contenders. /NBC Miami screenshot

Twenty Democratic candidates. Two nights. Two debates. One stage. That’s the new definition of Miami heat.

It’s the biggest thing happening in Florida this week as the top Democratic presidential contenders test their might and mettle against each other in a high stakes competition to become their political party’s nominee.

Don’t believe the national polls stating this or that candidate is the frontrunner. No primaries have been held, no votes cast, no ballots counted. And these are the only things that matter.

In fact, two candidates currently are on the defensive – apparent frontrunner Joe Biden and top 10 contender Pete Buttigieg. Biden for talking up his days with the late U.S. Sen. James Eastland of Alabama, a sly dog whistle to the old-timey South indicating that Biden is not going to rock your boat. He’s your guy. And Buttigieg is under fire for a police shooting of a black man that has rocked his city South Bend, Ind. Buttigieg’s luster has been tarnished by his wooden response to the crisis.

Consolation Prize

As the old college saying goes, look to the right and look to the left, because some of the candidates may come out limping or not make it past the first Democratic debates, scheduled for glistening Miami on Wednesday, June 26, and Thursday, June 27. It’s the swing state’s consolation prize after the national convention went to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in search of the mythical midwestern voter. The debates are hosted by NBC, Telemundo and MSNBC.

There will be a stunning array of candidates on display for any political party – 1 former vice president, 7 U.S. senators, 5 members of Congress, 1 sitting governor, 6 mayors, 1 former cabinet member, 6 women, 5 people of color, 1 LGBT. Their ages range from 37 to 77.

Each qualified to be included in the debates based on polling and fundraising. In fact, four candidates were omitted because they didn’t rank. The Democratic National Committee dreamed up the formula after receiving tons of criticism for its favoritism of Hillary Clinton in 2016.

The DNC entered into a pact with Clinton even before the 2015 primaries, specifying Clinton would control the party’s finances, strategy and all the money raised, among other things, wrote Donna Brazile, former interim chair of the DNC, in a book. Primary opponent Bernie Sanders loudly complained the party was not neutral. “The system is rigged!”

Moderator’s Nightmare

The candidates will debate for two hours, starting at 9 p.m., on their respective nights. Given the number of candidates, each has only about six minutes total time to make their mark, making the moderator’s job a potential nightmare. Who will be a time hog? Will candidates be cut off?

Wednesday, the first night of the debates, features the following candidates, in alphabetical order:

  • New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker
  • Julián Castro, former head of Housing and Urban Development
  • New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio
  • Former Congressman John Delaney of Maryland
  • Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii
  • Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington
  • Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar
  • Former Congressman Beto O’Rourke of Texas
  • Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan
  • Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren

On Thursday, the final night, viewers will hear from:

  • Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden
  • Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend., Ind.
  • New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
  • California Sen. Kamala Harris
  • Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper
  • Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders
  • California Congressman Eric Swalwell
  • Author and activist Marianne Williamson
  • Andrew Wang, entrepreneur and philanthropist

The Invisible Candidate

Collectively the presidential candidates, including Donald Trump, have raised $229.7 million, according to the Federal Elections Commission. But Trump alone has collected nearly $100 million for his re-election campaign. Of the remaining candidates, John Delaney comes in with $18.3 million, behind Sanders and ahead of Warren. Who knew?

Trump, of course, is the invisible 21st candidate at the debates. He launched his re-election campaign in Orlando last week in a raucous bid for the swing state with 29 electoral votes. Recent polling shows him losing Florida. (Don’t believe it.) Another poll states his 35 percent support among Florida Latinos – that’s the percentage of Florida Hispanics who voted for Trump in 2016 – remains steady. (Hmmm.)

He has been laying low, wisely canceling scheduled ICE deportations that may have rankled immigrant Latinos in Miami, home to many Cubans, Venezuelans, Colombians and others, all immigrants. Miami has long been considered the new Ellis Island. Think of the optics!

Instead, he launched a Latinos for Trump initiative on the eve of the debates. Polls show 56 percent of Florida Hispanics would vote to replace Trump, according to a Mason-Dixon poll. A third of Hispanics would re-elect him, about the same as in 2016.

Trump is unlikely to stay quiet as the Democrats take stabs at the candidate for whom the 2020 presidential election is his to lose.

˜˜María Padilla, Editor

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