On Politics With Lisa Lerer: Debate Week

Hi. Welcome to On Politics, your guide to the day in national politics. I’m Lisa Lerer, your host.

School’s out. The sun is shining. And it’s debate week, people.

Winners will be made! Political reputations lost! Campaign coffers filled! O.K., not really — as you may remember, my summer prediction is that the debates won’t have *that* big an impact.

But, hey, they’re still fun. And for many voters — not you, of course, dear reader — it will be their first introduction to the panoply of candidates that make up this fine Democratic primary.

For those of you just tuning in, here’s some of what we’ll be watching on Wednesday and Thursday nights.

Does Joe Biden misspeak, again? The former vice president is known as a voluble, gaffe-prone politician. It’s a trait that undid his past two presidential bids, and we’ve already seen it on display this time around. Mr. Biden is preparing for an onslaught of attacks from his rivals, but can he keep his own impulses in check?

Can Beto O’Rourke, Cory Booker or Amy Klobuchar make a moment? All three have lingered at the bottom of the top tier of the race, despite having fairly strong political brands. The debate provides them the chance to be seen by the biggest audience yet in this primary, and a very big opportunity to gain some traction in the race.

Pete Buttigieg has spent much of the past two months making the argument that the country needs generational change. Now, he’ll be standing alongside the two septuagenarians leading the field. Can he take the case to them directly? It’ll be particularly interesting to watch considering this has been a rather bad week for him.

Does any of the “B group” — as Ms. Klobuchar put it — break out? More than a dozen candidates linger in the 0-to-1-percent range, and all are hoping for a breakout moment. I must admit that I’m a little doubtful about this one, given that each candidate is likely to get less than 10 minutes of talk time. But if there’s one thing you can count on during debates, it’s a surprise.

Want to read more? Debate predictions abound! The Times op-ed columnist David Leonhardt even offered suggestions for the moderators in his newsletter this morning.

We want to hear from our readers. Have a question? We’ll try to answer it. Have a comment? We’re all ears. Email us at onpolitics@nytimes.com.

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We’re not going to tell you how to spend your Wednesday night. But if the debate alone isn’t enough for you, the Politics desk at The New York Times is here to help.

Presenting… On Politics Debate Night Bingo. Feel free to pair with the poison of your choice: Beer, M&M’s, Kirsten Gillibrand’s whiskey. (We, of course, will be practicing the “new sobriety.” Work calls.)

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