MIAMI (CBSMiami) – For many voters, it’s the beginning of the 2020 campaign and it’s happening in South Florida.
Tonight, the Democratic Party holds the first of a two-night debate, with 20 candidates taking part overall.
“A lot of voters don’t know who all the candidates are, and it’s gonna be a little bit of I want to get to know you, a little bit of getting name recognition, a little bit of making a sound bite,” said Joseph Uscinski, University of Miami Associate Professor of Political Science.
Ten candidates will participate in tonight’s event, and the other ten will go at it on Thursday.
The unusual set-up is the result of an unusually large field of hopefuls.
“There’s still a lot of the electorate don’t know who they are,” said Charles Zelden, History and Political Science Professor at Nova Southeastern University.
Professor Zelden thinks the candidates will likely have two goals for the debates.
“What we have is a requirement that they have both to introduce themselves and also make a splash,” said Zelden. “Make sure they say something that people remember.”
We’ve seen and heard many of the democratic candidates for president, like Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, in south Florida over the past few days.
“I’m delighted that more people are talking about cancelling student loans,” said Warren.
Former San Antonio mayor and HUD secretary Julian Castro is introducing himself to voters.
“I would strengthen Medicare for the people who are on it,” said Castro.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee pitched his message of taking on climate change to South Florida voters.
“It is time to start to transition off of fossil fuels,” said Inslee.
Which candidates appear on stage each night was chosen at random. Only one of tonight’s participants has consistently polled in the top five.
“I think Elizabeth Warren will have an advantage because she’s the only one of the so-called major candidates that’s going to be on the night one panel,” said Brad Bannon, Democratic pollster and strategist. “And so she has a chance to dominate.”
Even as they work to stand apart from the crowd, one common theme is expected to emerge:
“They’re going to talk a lot about Trump, and one thing they’re going to do is try to make a case that they’re the one who should go out there and battle Trump in the next year and a half,” said Uscinski.
Four democrats didn’t qualify for the debates.
To qualify for the debate, candidates had to reach at least 1% in three separate polls, or receive donations from at least 65,000 different donors, with a minimum of 200 individual donors in no less than 20 states.
“No one is going to win the primary in this first debate,” said Zelden. “But some people are going to lose any chance of winning the primary in this first debate.”