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Tonight’s Democratic Debate Is Biden’s Chance to Prove Why He’s Leader of the Pack

June 27, 2019, 4:37 PM UTC
Democratic Presidential Candidates Attend The South Carolina Convention
COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 22: Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden is introduced to the crowd during the 2019 South Carolina Democratic Party State Convention on June 22, 2019 in Columbia, South Carolina. Democratic presidential hopefuls are converging on South Carolina this weekend for a host of events where the candidates can directly address an important voting bloc in the Democratic primary. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
Sean Rayford Getty Images

It’s Joe Biden’s moment to shine — or stumble.

The former vice president has a chance to solidify his front-runner status — or jeopardize it with a characteristic gaffe — when he takes the stage in Miami for the second night of the Democrats’ debut 2020 presidential debate.

Biden, who is trying to steer the party on a centrist course, will go head-to-head with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders — the progressive who’s been running second in polls — and eight other candidates, including California Senator Kamala Harris and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana.

The first tranche of potential challengers to Donald Trump faced off last night, with Elizabeth Warren emerging as the big winner.

The Massachusetts senator and liberal firebrand went largely unchallenged by her opponents and used the opportunity to bring her argument that she’s the strongest alternative to Biden to a national television audience of millions.

In many ways, the debate was fought on Warren’s turf, with a focus on income inequality, busting corporate power and battling Republicans in Congress.

But translating success into momentum, particularly with seven months to go before the first votes are cast, remains an uphill battle for nearly everyone in the crowded field.

The nomination is still Biden’s to lose — for now.

More must-read stories from Fortune:

—4 times 2020 candidates clashed during the Democratic debate

—5 things to watch for on night 2 of the Democratic presidential debate

—What the 2020 Democratic candidates didn’t say during the first debate

Elizabeth Warren holds her own as lesser-knowns break out in first debate

Julián Castro breaks out in a debate defined by border policy and immigration

Can socialism win in 2020? Democrats aren’t embracing it