A record 12 Democratic presidential hopefuls will take the stage in Ohio on Tuesday night, for the first live televised debate since House Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
Many analysts will be watching to see if Joe Biden, the former US vice-president, faces questions over Mr Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that he acted improperly in relation to his son, Hunter Biden, and his business interests in Ukraine and China. The ongoing impeachment inquiry centres on a July 25 phone call in which Mr Trump pressed his Ukrainian counterpart to dig up dirt on the Bidens.
The younger Mr Biden said at the weekend that he would be stepping down from the board of a Chinese private equity group and would not work for foreign-owned companies if his father were elected president. In a television interview that aired on Tuesday morning on ABC News, he said he did not regret serving in an unpaid role on the board of the Chinese group, or taking up a lucrative board position with the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, but said: “I made a mistake in retrospect as it related to creating any perception that that was wrong.”
The former vice-president has until recently been seen as the sole frontrunner in the race among Democrats to challenge Mr Trump in next year’s presidential election. However, Elizabeth Warren, the US senator from Massachusetts, is now neck and neck with Mr Biden, according to an average of national polls compiled by the website Real Clear Politics, and raised almost $10m more than him in the third quarter.
Ms Warren has largely escaped attacks from Democratic rivals in previous televised debates, but is expected to come under criticism on Tuesday night. Last week Mr Biden said “we are not electing a planner”, in a thinly veiled dig at Ms Warren’s campaign refrain “I have a plan for that”. On Tuesday morning Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, released an advertising campaign attacking Ms Warren’s support for Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” plan, which would effectively eliminate private health insurance in the US.
All eyes will also be on Mr Sanders on Tuesday, who will be participating in his first major campaign event since suffering a heart attack earlier this month. After taking almost two weeks off to recover, the 78-year-old US senator from Vermont has vowed to stay in the race but said he would “change the nature” of his campaign.
Twenty Democrats are still vying for the party’s presidential nomination, but 12 qualified for Tuesday’s debate based on their polling figures and fundraising requirements as set out by the Democratic National Committee. Tulsi Gabbard, the congresswoman from Hawaii, and billionaire investor Tom Steyer will participate, having not made the cut for last month’s TV debate.