Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders in first one-on-one debate Sunday
Former Vice-President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders will be squaring off for the first one-on-one debate of the Democratic presidential nominating contests on Sunday in the shadow of a coronavirus outbreak that has killed at least 59 people in the United States so far.
Biden comes to the debate once again as a front-runner, buoyed by a string of recent victories in the Democratic president nominating contests. And Sanders will be looking to rescue and re-energize his campaign, badly battered from these defeats, some of them far worse than expected.
Sunday night will be the first time the two candidates will face-off in a one-on-debate (Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is still in the race, but has not qualified for the debate). Sanders has proven himself the better debater, more forceful, lucid and good with one-liners (“I wrote that Damn Bill”). Biden has been prone to making mistakes and fumbling for answers.
But experts have pointed to the limited impact debates have had on the nominating contests. Senator Elizabeth Warren, for instance, dominated the last some debates — including an epic takedown of billionaire Michael Bloomberg — but could not translate them into electoral victories, and quit the race.
The path forward for Sanders has been rapidly narrowing and the upcoming bunch of nominating contests in four states on Tuesday — Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio — hold not much good news for him. He has found little traction in Florida, for instance, the largest of them in terms of delegate count.
Biden, on the other hand, is riding a momentum since his pivotal win in the South Carolina primaries. He went to win 10 of the 14 Super Tuesday states and picked up four of the six last week. Biden leads Sanders 885-732 in the count of delegates; the winner needs 1,991.
Moderate Democrats are rapidly coalescing around his candidacy with with mounting urgency to end the race and let him and the party focus on beating President Donald Trump in the November elections. Calls have already started being made for Sanders to quit the race.
The Sunday debate will be held without a live audience and the venue has been shifted from Arizona to Washington DC in view of the coronavirus outbreak, which has also forced the two candidates to call off campaign rallies and event. They have switched to digital town-halls and fire-side chats instead.