Houston debate stage set ahead of 3rd DNC primary debate

ABC News takes an inside look at Thursday's 2020 presidential Democratic primary debate at Texas Southern University.
27:59 | 09/12/19

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Transcript for Houston debate stage set ahead of 3rd DNC primary debate
This stage is set in Houston of Devin Dwyer ten candidates one night for the split turning point in the democratic race and we aren't. I respect all around the world that is what demagogues do. Not president of the united. Our whole team is here what. They'll be watching for Thursday. You break out we'll show you around this beautiful set and the great city of Houston constant immigration debate. Why is this basement studio at NASA were at the Johnson Space Center right now in the briefing. Everybody hello from Houston on Devin Dwyer were coming to you live from Texas. Southern University inside this pretty incredible debate hall will dive into the state of play in the democratic race. Coming up the first Lester was some headlines that we're covering here ABC news right now including some breaking news out of the White House a short time ago president trump announced. That he's planning and new possible ban on non tobacco flavored beeping products after. That recent surge in long illnesses linked to. We are. Looking at it safety very strongly it's very dangerous. Children have died people look back. And he acted commissioner is. He separated into expert on it is what you eat could be an exporter renders an object. And we're gonna have submerged road rules regulations. The president also confirmed he's nearing a decision a new gun violence prevention measures in the wake of it. Deadly mass shootings this summer he said he spoke today by Ford for forty minutes by phone with three. I'd senators a Democrat and Republican about his package we will see he says it's coming. And the next 4448 hours meanwhile a North Carolina. A big win for Republicans there overnight in the special election. For the US house Republican Dan bishop defeated Democrat Dan McCree bridge is two percentage points. But that narrow margin could be a warning sign for president trump who won the same area by twelve points. In 2016 we have former North Dakota senator Heidi hi camp she's standing by. For her take on what all of this means and today marks eighteen years since the country experience the September 11 attacks and today. We watched a lot of moments of silence. The nation pausing to remember that fateful morning both that the war World Trade Center the Pentagon chiefs go. Pennsylvania I did names of the dead were read it once again today eighteen years later. And then there's this new site this year at ground zero and 9/11 memorial glade this is. Something that's dedicated to those who are exposed to toxins. And aftermath of those attacks in remembering Ellis first responders. Who rushed there to the scene. Well the political world is descending on Houston today is the candidates make their final preparations for tomorrow night's debate ten candidates. One night on this stage it'll be a big moment and. The team is here to talk about it recliner deputy our political director rather is here and our. Terrific political reporter Rachel Scott who's been out on the trail will be enormous for got to start with you because you've been. Climbing this pretty yeah ordinary event. The reasons for pretty stable heretofore. This could be a turning point. This is a major marking point in the race because of all the candidates on one stage one night for the first time so far this cycle which means you have the top candidates the people that are most likely to win the democratic nomination frankly. Together on one place at one time but of course all our togetherness. Doesn't make headlines and that isn't what creates the kind of separation that a lot of those candidates are gonna look look for when you look at center stage. It is almost an existential crisis or a moment for the Democrats a decision point when you see Elizabeth Warren. But Joseph Biden they represent much different strands much different strains of the Democratic Party ultimately they're gonna have to make a decision as voters. Rachel you run and that's camped for all New Hampshire last week in almost all the candidates were there just nineteen. Lot of riches are good reminder that just because this means only has ten those other nine have not yet found out so we'll see where that goes but. I was surprised when the number of candidates you talk to who actually explicitly pointed out that this debate. Was a major marker for then that's not something we normally here they were saying the State's high. Out of strengthening our people and a judge told me that he believes the nominee is coming from this stage right behind at the nominee's going to be on that stage but of course everyone's going to be looking at right that faceoff between Joseph Biden Elizabeth Warren on the speech for the first time. I asked Joseph Biden how his message breaks through standing next to Bernie Sanders. And Elisabeth Lauren he says he doesn't have to critics that will be interesting now to talk to senator Elizabeth Warren asked her about this to me she down play. Know any of this school lining in this hype that aren't I didn't facing opera she said this is her moment she sees it. See just how Americans about her vision for the country. And it had a chance to talk to a lot of voters that were so many undecided voters in New Hampshire and voter after voter told me that list and they're going to be watching this debate to see who can beat president trop. That's the number one issue that's on their mind the monument from there willing to compromise even some of their values on other issues like health care if it means that candidate is going to be the president point one. And Rick we do you know that there is someone of a different format in this debate aside from the fact it's on to Kennedy's talk is about that Howard the questions can be asked and what can we tell our viewers about how the questions are being prepared today about a month. We'll left for moderator George Stephanopoulos David Muir Lindsey Davis and Jorge Ramos of Univision our our our partner in this Spanish language. Andy each question that they pose a fresh questions can be a minute fifteen a little bit longer than that they admitted. That we've seen in the past and 45 seconds for rebuttals and responses so our hope is to get the whole lot of topics cover a lot of ground you can't get to everything. Trying to obviously find some areas where they. They do the candidates want to have that debate ultimately it's their debate that. We heard George Stephanopoulos this morning on Good Morning America talk about this he says he doesn't want to be part of the debate is and we mean the spotlight for. They're actively working on finding ways to draw out the contrasts among cannot. I think did the watch word around these things is to remember that these are the men and women that are putting themselves out there to it to try to become president of the United States and in you want to create a forum. That allows them to have a robust engagement on the ideas on the substance. On the values on the vision that they bring in and they they're laying out there right CDs or ten people that all humble from different backgrounds different accomplishments this historic diversity. I gender diversity racial and ethnic diversity backgrounds of the diversity age diversity Candice in their thirties up through. Other late seventies and all of that speaks to a Democratic Party that is trying to find out what it is in this moment. In a changing country were here in Houston when the most diverse cities in the United States in the state that's turning purple are Rachel the president watching this all very closely Texas close to his heart. I'm noncommittal today than when asked whether he would actually watch this. But you know you cover the trump campaign. His team is taking notes and. I was just talking and his team down in Fayetteville where the president had that rallied just on Monday and I think his T looking at this thing right we're interested to see what happens when. These ten candidates are all in one speech on one night what exactly is going to happen and the Arab their strategy obviously is still going to be to attack. The Democrats here they have a robust kind of online operation going Everett at counter programming events here just like they had for the other two debates. But their eyes are going to be on what happens who will be fighting against you but by an even has warned against that when I interviewed him just a few weeks ago recently he told me let's not form a circular firing squad these attacks on the Obama Biden administration he was pushing away from knows. Leung trash strike talk to him over the weekend he some listen it's time for a new generation and he hopes that shows there on the stage interesting enough now. Cory Booker promised no equally jokes and oryx said maybe help so we'll see how that plane we had initially but minority international. Hearing ABC news truck guys thank you so much for proving to be you when you will be back we're gonna give our viewers now. Closer look at the stage behind me how it's been set in what are you can hope to see tomorrow night cares about. Inside the big arena on campus. Ahead of thirst in its third democratic presidential debate want to bring you inside the debate hall giving up close look as preparations are just wrapping up. On the stage period is behind us and army of maintenance. Construction crews still putting all this gear together you can see behind me here. The cameras are said they will capture the candidates as they come out their only ten candidates. In this debate that's half the stage. From the first two presidential debates in the field was funny I here we are. 35 tractor trailers worth of equipment to to set up this beautiful set here. Small army putting it together over a couple days 1151000. Pounds of hanging equipment enough pixels on these screens. To light up Times Square 35 cameras I get a capture those candidates here than the seats. The B 3500 guests many of these are handpicked by the candidates. Also some community members will be here the democratic national committee of course as a sand gets. Who gets it and attend the debate they're one of the co sponsors. Of this. All right I'm joined by two plugged in Democrats right here in the hall the great Heidi. I can't of the state of North Dakota former senator you've got Simpson I CEO of democracy for America's big daddy both about ABC news contributors recently yeah excellent beginnings US. What you're going to be watching tomorrow night but even emissaries you. We think has the most at stake. And that's their debate you know I think Joseph Biden for sure you know you've got all of the front runners kind of on the same stage the first time we're seeing everybody who probably has a great chance at one stage. And now he versatile as warnings already had a chance against Cumberland quarry will sea ice they ends up. I think for everybody at the high stakes are it is the first time really artists seeing the top five top seven together. They're gonna have to distinguish themselves based on totally energy brag but also on issues and so to be adjusting with the other plays down to how do you on our powerhouse politics podcast last week talking about the need. And the desire for many democratic voters to really start when doing this thing down stick behemoth of the campaign. With nineteen candidates is this effectively a winnowing I mean are we down to attend are the other nine. I think it's going to be very very hard for someone who's not on this stage. She merge as the eventual on nominee now if you have a lot of money like Tom's dire maybe that works for you when you make it into. The next debate but I think it's going to be extraordinarily difficult because this is a casting call for who's gonna run. For president would carry the democratic banner and if you're not on this stage I think it's going to be very very difficult find your way it into that final. Nomination process and when our new poll that's out today had some very interest you data on head to heads between any of these candidates and Donald Trump nationally. Looked very good for Democrats had basically everybody on stage tonight I think we have a graphic. A tornado rather beating Donald Trump and head to heads of course you guys know better than anybody it's going out and Eli. Our college those necessarily lead to seven need to win states like North Dakota Michigan mine I have asked Ohio yeah. That's where really matter if it's not as rosy a picture there and you did you get the sense is that this is sort of. Giving him a false narrative to what could be a much tougher campaign although stats. I I think that the North Carolina. Congressional race yesterday was was telling. Big win in the suburbs and they're losing even bigger in rural America vent free as the Democrat and I think. That Ford tells a real story where they're gonna have to start really thinking about how do you broaden the appeal. Now there's two ways of thinking about that you can energize your base and get people enthusiastic about your ideas or you can take a look at kind of the old school. You know who can we get on in the attempt. Voting for us and I think you've got to start addressing. Some of the concerns of Democrats in rural America not just Republicans. But Democrats who didn't show up in rural America to vote for don't. Right and I would continue to argue that expanding the electorate right so Barack Obama won Ohio and clean. Twelve he won Ohio and 2018 he won Pennsylvania he won Wisconsin and he won these states. It we can do that and he was the hope and change energy candidate he was the underdog at the time which got the old Iowa everything she did so I think the strategy should be to energize the base expand the electric to those folks who don't. Traditionally vote to vote I think that's how we went and are you optimistic that Texas is someplace that could actually be in play. I wouldn't that some furniture for the Fed raises the congressional races and we saw a lot of great win there and I think that's in the quiet now purple state law. I think it's interesting because people always talk what Texas. Texas as a plus six or plus eight statement yesterday the Democrat came within two percentage points in a plus twelve. So can we just kind of all agree that Texas is a place. That has potential it's also expensive and whether you decide you're going to invest resources here is going to be Democrats. Here are totally different breed though in some reporting yesterday fort bank county when the purple counties talk to a lot of Democrats and they said and I was living in California Republican. So there isn't any interest in next year Georgia and others is turning purple but they felt as. You like it could you go first listen you gotta put into equity or hedge for absolutely. Beginning to understand what's happening in rural America. Tech that Democrats in Texas are no different than Democrats and north. Kodak and they feel disaffected. They feel a disconnected with their party with that a reconnect them we can do that on the values of family. The values of making sure that people can earn a living in this country and that we don't leave and. Plenty hot and there are a lot of young voters new voters millennial there are a lot of brown voters who have never been engaged in the state that are probably riled up by everything happening at the border. That's been happening under terms administration and so I think we give us a fascinating backdrop to have as the debate here love having you guys tumbled waiting in the Democratic Party. Great thing that regularly and Brady we should tell our audio. It is not between the two months a fight is to win this race here and I'm pretty daring accounting clearance that are hurting I can North Dakota news much in essence of democracy for America behind as he can year. Either still rehearsing for the debate see here than trying out the. The teleprompter the announcement those folks are the candidates those are stand ins but worrying signs. I think candidates so we want to zoom in on their faces and a nurse I'm the best and exactly nothing you both very much. One out two Jaipur Hobart who covers. The campaign force he's out here on the campus of Texas Southern University Johnny. Because our Jeanne you to give us a look at how these candidates are actually preparing you've been tracking. Other strategies headed into this how are the front runners during that. What's right then and I'm out here you can see him on the campus of Texas Southern University. From a little bit hotter out here that is in there and some students came by earlier and asked me how to get into the debate. And I asked them. I told them to go last haven't wires and just be prepared for that but here question I just you know there's a very pretty interesting contrast between how to front runners have been preparing. Both senator Elizabeth Warren and senator Bernie Sanders I've been out on the campaign trail senator Warren was an Austin yesterday were she held a rally. And she kind of you know shoved off these questions about whether or not there's a big confrontation. With vice president Joseph Biden they have not been on the same stage before as you've been discussing earlier. Senator Bernie Sanders has been on the campaign trail in Iowa earlier this week trying to court college voters. The bar former vice president has been down for for the most part for the last week he's been meeting with advisors. And and kinda getting ready for this debate is going to be crucial one electors are to be the first time will be onstage with senator Warren Evans. And what do we know Johnny about how some of the lower polling candidates are preparing another who Leon Castro. Held a big rally this week here in his home state of Texas bit O work through the same thing. How do we know about how how the second tier candidates are doing. Right will you mentioned those two Texans in the race former Hud secretary Juan Castro and former Texas congressman pence or arc. They've been emphasizing their Texas roots like you said Castro held a rally in Houston earlier this week a work release the names of his Texas leadership team. My other candidates like Andrew Yang we've heard of been playing basketball to get loose. I just wanted to point to a tweet that Andrew Yang sent out just about an Al less than an hour ago he said for those wondering I will be crowd surfing and sandals at Thursday's debate. I can't confirm whether or not that's gonna happen but that's just on Andrew yanks Twitter feed. But like his idea for these are polling candidates for these candidates come towards the end of this edges of the stage. This is a big moment this is the first time we've had one night of debate and this is the first time that they'll be actually able to stand out and really contrast themselves with a front runners. Are trying to overhaul over her political reporter braving the heat here in a sweltering Houston. Out there on the campus of Texas southern thank you so much for that Johnny we will be. Watching the candidates as they converge on this hall. Tomorrow night I'm joined now by Rachel Scott again our political reporter I hear a stage because one of the things that we've been doing in the lead up to this debate rituals taking a closer look at some of the issues. That will come off immigration one of the biggest he. Here likely to be talked about on Thursday night you got a closer look today at one family in the immigration asylum process in this country Tulsa. Yes that I did you know this woman that we spoke to she it escapes from El Salvador she says horrendous condition she was fearing for her life she really describe that the life or death situation. You gotta sink even through interfaith ministries here in Houston that helped her get on her feet. And now we're starting a new life here in Houston her and her son listen to her story. These three photos are the only tangible memories for mark has has laughed at her life in El Salvador. And I took my hand it to look at upcoming report. 15% on the settlements have to hit movie nano. It's most. The main campus in. Point that he had available to assess. Just in the town that I hold its the lieutenant. Eight oh. Lean gang violence Merck has her husband knew the only way out for their son was to leave. But only have enough money from one of them to make the trip with him. To put the economy plus photo for a place in the inning and movies that I. Yes. You bet I was mad at that I have known that I ended. This evening I and CEO Lloyd pencil. Billions of homeless. And don't wanna be. Mark has been made backtracked she and her son were granted asylum here in the US. Necessary young sons in the past eleven days. Me look listen and there had been an avenue. No I am. He level asset you know but that Manning cousins let's. NBA they have my it's. Let me get on the NFC. Sad to say little. Starting over Mir comes the challenge of the Madonna and fearing for CT. Dallas and some North Korean these untruths. Between country and now had. Good opportunities if communities. Feeling. Life's game night. What do you wish people knew about how people like Q and about. Your story when people get wrong about asylum seekers. And on the meaning of. Some people have been suggestions by he's. But he billions it. Isn't put up what has some. This is that this kimonos laying his head he said he moved. Eighteen cents. And just a really powerful story she was so emotional as she just when we did an interview she just. He's got off live out almost like twelve hour long chefs had just trying to work as hard she Chandra some Burger King trying to provide for her family but. You heard her there and that was really the point that she drove home is that this isn't a question of wanting to come to the US she felt like she had to and that. Just 41 just heartbreaking story about leaving her husband behind and I was the last time she ever got to see him. And it's success story for someone Seeking Asylum. You reach your little trouble themselves hackers have she came in as you said in 2018 aircraft improve for asylum claim. In 2018 and from administration and it can be done. But I'm joined now by immigration attorney Kimberly brands exit. On the saddle of that you really because we do also know. The proposals that have been set up now for asylum seekers. Have been much harder to clear tell us about how complicated. I'll bet Systemax. If I don't profit has always been complicated the now found speakers are facing roadblock after roadblock. From the tenth administration humans trying to curtail the people that are coming from Central America fatter order. Asylum has. Always been typical in the United States the burden is on the apple and she proved. That they are going to be persecuted by their government or third act that the government has been able to control. Credible fear we hear about all the time they have to demonstrate that before. I judge of sorts. But we hear from the trump administration. To your point and I heard this week here in Houston from many Texans who support legal immigration. Bob this claim this idea that the asylum system is being taken advantage that. Human traffickers are formed for for profit funneling people up here telling them what to say when they come across. Is any of that true we get the sense that it is being abused and that there are some bad actors in this pool. I think there always are going to be an actor's but the majority of people who are happening here France and America are chili fearing for their lives. And we have profit from planes like the credible theory that the U. That prevent someone Hugh doesn't happen claimed her island from being able to present their case the plan based. How did this fairly recent talk talk to us a little bit more about your experience. But the Salvadoran family. How did they make it through the process to they have an advocate immigration attorney Howard they actually able to jump through all these complicated hoops what does it take. Yeah I mean that they describe this moment of coming to a country where you don't know anyone and you have to find some place to live you don't have a job you don't have any money with your coming with what the clothes on your back. Luckily for none they had interfaith ministries which really set up in kind of walk them through this process helped them get a pro Bono lawyer and go through this process of Seeking Asylum but. It doesn't stop there are a bunch of cultural things that they had to re learn as well and talking with interfaith ministries some of the and administrators there they were. Saying even something as simple as learning how to work a microwave rain or the types of jobs that. You know some of these folks can get luckily for them they match them with companies here that pay a little bit. Above minimum wage but it's starting all over frank from the beginning and they are likely to have an organization helping curb. To relieve the faith organizations and charities have done such heroic job helping these people coming across in this crushed and you're familiar with that. Let me ask you another criticism that I heard and just talking to voters here in Texas and that is how come a lot of these people don't just see the sound. In another country that they passed through and we started to see now. The trump administration sort of force or require. It's being hung up in court but to try to require these families to seek asylum in Mexico office about the complications of that process. Said that the new third country asylum like he added there's anything that nationwide injunction that was passed just Batman northern district of Texas. But these countries Guatemala and El Salvador which would be third countries for. Under and then. Salvadorian they don't have the pistons played to process these planes and offer these people the protection they need while their claims are seen heard. Tell us it's not as easy as some mom on the surface might. I'm human forensic an immigration attorney here in Houston thanks so much for coming in nice to me and I racial thank you for bringing us that reporting live finally since we're in Houston. We decided to take a closer look at the space industry here which is a big part of this economy the space shuttle program may be gone but there is new excitement. About ingenuity in the space program and a new space race that's bubbling up our Janet Weinstein went on to NASA's Johnson Space Center. To take a closer look. I've been at mass for almost thirty years now. And this is the peak of excitement they way we have had. That National Space Council. Was conveying put back together and they gave a recommendation to the president that we should go back to the moon. And basically use them. And as their backyard. To go to Mars. So where the robotics area Bellman at the Johnson Space Center we do all types of development here. We developed the rovers that small pressurized rovers colony SED's space exploration vehicle and behind pressurized rover. This is where it's the bell. With this vehicle we can actually get closer to observations. In Santa thing. And then it has an independent suspensions. You can literally just barely touch. Moments. How I we will work and own the on pressurized rover are. I'll rover will be waiting for proved to return in twenty points for the and when they get off of the land there. They will have a roll over their weight and form will modules. WellPoint in all directions the man v.s. These Coughlin is down here we'll let us. Pick up. What we call portable utility talents and that we'll have extra energy solar arrays in the life. A new thing to this generation. Mass say is that we're going back to a dirty play. It's been. And environment where we flu shot alone. There was plane fleet where our own space station that's playing now we're going back to a very environment can't get our boots dirty. It is it is exciting ten know that. Our generation. Is may kidnap one model's death. That allows that to happen. The future of space happening now at the Johnson Space Center here in Houston our thanks to Janet Weinstein. For bringing us that peace thanks for watching the briefing room today here from Houston we are here. All day today on ABC news live and all they tomorrow with special coverage of the ABC news democratic debate from Houston the third. And first one night to date ten candidates only can only catch it here on ABC news starts at 7 PM eastern time. On ABC news live of course you can catch a son who live roku FaceBook watched abcnews.com. ABC news out of course as well I'm Devin Dwyer in Houston up to see you back here tomorrow.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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