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The Democratic presidential primary's top tier candidates have shown a new willingness to lob direct attacks at each other in the lead up to Tuesday night's debate.
Candidates who insisted on focusing on policy in the early stages of the primary have gone on offense in recent days. The first jab came from Bernie Sanders, who ended his long streak of non-confrontation on Sunday when he labeled Elizabeth Warren a "capitalist." Then Warren, in a piece published Tuesday, called out her opponents for "hobnobbing with the rich and powerful." And Pete Buttigieg's latest ad calls out both Sanders and Warren by name for their radical health care proposals.
Primary - Primaries - Field - Thins - Frontrunners
The current primary has been less confrontational than primaries in the past, but as the field thins and frontrunners continue to establish themselves, candidates are showing they're ready to take shots at opponents. Tuesday night's debate in Westerville, Ohio, will feature 12 candidates on the stage at once, and offers an opportunity for candidates to make a big move.
"At some point the candidates have to unleash the dogs of war, and this debate seems the time," said the University of Virginia's Larry Sabato, who notes that time is running out for candidates to make a move. "By mid-November, people are in their holiday mode until early January, so mid-October makes more sense to me."
Polling - Shifts - Primary - Debate - Stage
Many of the major polling shifts in the Democratic primary have followed debate stage attacks. California senator Kamala Harris, for example, surged in the polls after she took it to former Vice President Joe Biden over school integration. Harris plummeted months later after Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard laid into her criminal justice record.
But debate stage attacks also have the potential to backfire. Julián Castro, for example, was widely deemed the loser of the last debate after he suggested Biden couldn't remember...
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