Democratic Debates, Sanders on Socialism, New Polls: This Week in the 2020 Race

We’re trying something new in our 2020 presidential campaign coverage.

Every Saturday morning, we’re publishing “This Week in the 2020 Race,” bringing you the key moments — from speeches and surprises among the candidates to new policies and polls that are influencing the campaign.

It’s a quick way to follow the presidential campaign and the sprawling field of 23 Democratic candidates. Trust us, we know how hard it is to keep up.

After countless pleas to donors from candidates, much media prognostication and more than a little complaining, the Democratic National Committee pared the historically large field of presidential candidates who will appear in the first debates to 20. (Sorry, Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana, Representative Seth Moulton of Massachusetts and Mayor Wayne Messam of Miramar, Fla.)

Then NBC News stepped in Friday and set the lineups for the pair of debates, which are slated for later this month in Miami.

The second night will be stacked: Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Senator Kamala Harris of California and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., will share the stage June 27.

The first night will be, well, less stacked, and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts seems poised to dominate. She’ll square off against former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and others June 26.

According to Mr. Biden, President Trump poses “an existential threat” to the country, its international standing and its values.

Mr. Biden, Mr. Trump said, was “a loser,” “a sleepy guy” and “the weakest mentally” — a candidate whom “people don’t respect.”

Our colleagues in Iowa followed Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump as they traveled through the battleground state on Tuesday, calling it “the most ferocious day of attacks in the six-month-old presidential campaign” — and one that offered voters a preview of what a general election matchup between the two men might look like.

In an aggressive attempt to defuse voter concerns about his electability, Mr. Sanders sought to define his brand of democratic socialism in a speech in Washington on Wednesday.

Mr. Sanders presented his vision of the ideology not as a set of extreme principles, but as a matter of “economic rights.” And he argued that his core political beliefs are embodied by longstanding, popular programs like Social Security and Medicare.

“Today in the 21st century, we must take up the unfinished business of the New Deal and carry it to completion,” he said.

It can seem like a new poll is released every day, and national polls may not tell us much about an election in which states carry the weight.

But we were struck by a new Quinnipiac University poll that showed only 10 candidates for the Democratic nomination registering any support. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Julián Castro, the former housing secretary, were among those who failed to reach the 1 percent mark.

Monmouth University also released its first survey of Nevada Democratic voters this week, which showed Ms. Warren ahead of Mr. Sanders in the state. She trailed only Mr. Biden, who maintained a comfortable lead in Nevada, a key early-voting state.

Remember Flint? At least one candidate does.

Last weekend, Mr. Castro became the first Democratic presidential candidate to visit Flint, Mich. Then, on Monday, he released a plan to combat lead poisoning. The plan called for a presidential task force to examine the major public health issue, as well as for increases in funding for lead remediation.

The proposal from Mr. Castro, who also participated in a Fox News town hall this week, at least momentarily placed the spotlight back on the clean water crisis in Flint. More than five years in, it’s still far from over. As The Times reported earlier this year, the mayor of Flint is still telling residents to drink only bottled or filtered water.

“We’re back to where we first started, where we’re yelling and screaming,” a community advocate, Melissa Mays, said. “And it seems like nobody can hear us.”

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