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Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press
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When the crowded field of Democratic presidential contenders meet for the first time in debate beginning Wednesday evening, they should avoid one big topic: that of the man they hope to replace, Donald Trump.
That’s advice from a notable Democratic pollster and strategist.
Some 20 of the 25 Democratic contenders for the 2020 presidential nomination will gather in Miami, Fla., for the first in a series of debates split over Wednesday and Thursday evenings in which 10 hopefuls will face off each night.
“If I were being paid to consult, I would say, don’t talk about Trump. I mean, you take a shot at Trump, but most of this, they’re at 2-, 3-percent support, you have to talk about yourself, you guys, you got to make the case, you have to have a moment here that breaks through, that’s about you, because most of the Democratic primary universe, they have very little idea of you unless your name is Joe Biden or Sen. [Bernie] Sanders,” said Cornell Belcher, pollster and founder/president of Brilliant Corners Research & Strategies. “If you’re one of those candidates sitting at 2- or 3-percent support, I would not waste a moment of my time talking about Donald Trump, but talk about me and why I should be the president.”
In the crowded field of more than two dozen hopefuls, aside from the top three or four front-runners, most candidates are polling at about 3 percent or less in public support.
The debates are held under the auspices of the Democratic National Committee, which narrowed the 25 hopefuls to the allotted 20 debate slots based on criteria of meeting set thresholds in public opinion polling and/or fundraising support.
The debates will be broadcast Wednesday and Thursday evenings on NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo.