The Democratic Party's seven strongest presidential contenders are preparing for what could be the fiercest debate stage clash of the 2020 primary season. Friday's debate in New Hampshire—which runs from 8-11pm ET and is hosted by ABC—comes four days before the state's primary and on the heels of the chaotic Iowa caucuses, which have shaken and reshaped the field. Sen. Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg enter the night as the top targets, having emerged from Iowa essentially tied for the lead. Those trailing after the first contest—including Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar—have an urgent need to demonstrate strength. Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang, meanwhile, are fighting to prove they belong in the conversation.
"This is the time when voters are eager for candidates to show they can compare and contrast, but also show they’re in it to win it," one Democratic strategist tells the AP. "Expect it to get more feisty." Indeed, it was a debate at this same stage in New Hampshire four years ago on the Republican side that then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie devastated Florida Sen. Marco Rubio's presidential ambitions with a well-timed take-down. Rubio never recovered, making it easier for Donald Trump to emerge as his party's presidential nominee. The stakes are particularly high this week for Biden, who has played frontrunner in virtually every one of the previous seven debates but left Iowa in distant fourth place. (Read the full AP article for more "subplots" to watch.)