7 key questions heading into the 2020 Democratic debate

7 key questions heading into the Democratic debate featuring the top 10 candidates

WASHINGTON -- New uncertainty hangs over the Democratic presidential primary as 10 candidates meet on the debate stage once again.

No longer is there a clear front-runner. The fight for African American voters is raging. And there are growing concerns that impeachment may become a distraction from the primary. Those issues and more will play out Wednesday night when the Democratic Party’s top 10 face off in Atlanta just 75 days before primary voting begins.

Seven big questions heading into the debate, to be carried on MSNBC:

WHO IS THE FRONT-RUNNER?

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HOW WILL OBAMA PLAY?

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WHAT SAY YOU, IMPEACHMENT JURY?

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WILL THEY BASH THE BILLIONAIRES?

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WILL SOMEONE STAND UP FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT?

Biden continues to be the favorite of many establishment Democrats, but his underwhelming candidacy has created an opening for another pragmatic-minded Democrat to step up. That’s why former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Bloomberg are moving into the race. Buttigieg stepped aggressively into the establishment lane in the last debate, but many donors and elected officials remain skeptical of the 37-year-old small-city mayor’s chances. The opportunity is there for lower-tier candidates including Kamala Harris, Klobuchar and Steyer.

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DOES SHE HAVE A PLAN FOR THAT?

No single issue has dominated the initial Democratic primary debates more than health care, and it’s safe to assume that will be the case again Wednesday night. And no one has more riding on that specific debate than Warren, who hurt herself last month by stumbling through questions about the cost of her single-payer health care plan. Given that policy specifics make up the backbone of her candidacy, she can’t afford another underwhelming performance on the defining policy debate of the primary season. Expect the policy-minded senator to have a new strategy this time around.

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CAN THEY SAVE THEMSELVES?

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, businessman Andrew Yang and Steyer are under enormous pressure to break out given their status as the only candidates onstage who haven’t yet qualified for the December debate. They likely won’t have the same number of opportunities to speak as their higher-polling rivals, but these are dire times for the underdogs. They need to do something if they expect to stay relevant in the 2020 conversation.

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Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”