Sanders expected to come under fierce attack at Tuesday debate, but can Bloomberg pull it off?

Associated Press / YouTube Bloomberg to join debate stage as 1582654741.jpg...
Associated Press / YouTube

Tuesday night brings yet another Democratic presidential primary debate, and this one will have not one but TWO billionaires onstage! Tom Steyer didn’t make it to last week’s Las Vegas debate, which was the first including former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but this week both are slated to appear. One, though, is at the center of speculation about how the debate will go, while the other is an afterthought. So don’t expect to read much more about Steyer here.

There are three key questions about Bloomberg’s appearance in this debate. First, can he improve on his terrible performance in Las Vegas, which even he has admitted “wasn’t my best night”? Second, Bloomberg’s plan for improvement centers on attacking Sen. Bernie Sanders. Will he land any blows? And third, Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s destruction of Bloomberg was one of the big factors in his failure last time around. Will she repeat that successfully?

Bloomberg isn’t expected to be the only candidate trying to break Sanders’ momentum. Sanders has been largely immune from serious attacks to this point, but that time seems to be over. Former Vice President Joe Biden is also signaling plans to challenge Sanders, and Warren may also sharpen her thus-far-mild criticisms of Sanders. That Sanders’ dedicated base of support will stand by him is a given, but his support has grown well beyond that base and this may be the first time that’s seriously tested.

Biden is looking for a strong showing to help him maintain his narrowing lead in South Carolina and propel him to strong performances in Super Tuesday states with substantial African American populations. Warren, whose big debate last week gave her momentum in caucus-day voting in Nevada but didn’t translate to a strong performance in the state due to the prevalence of early voting, needs another big showing to strengthen her going into Super Tuesday.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, meanwhile, spent the last debate largely sniping at each other. There seems to be some intense personal dislike playing out there in addition to whatever strategic decision about competing for moderate voters initially launched the conflict, but they’re going to find a way not to just seem petty and overly focused on each other. It particularly detracts from the Barack Obama vibe Buttigieg is otherwise going for in his campaign.

Tom Steyer will also be there.

The debate will be on CBS at 8 PM ET and last two hours. It will be moderated by an entire fleet of CBS news personalities: Norah O’Donnell, Gayle King, Margaret Brennan, Major Garrett, and Bill Whitaker.

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