What to expect in tonight's Democratic presidential debate in Houston

HOUSTON – It's a big day in Houston. The top Democratic 2020 presidential candidates will finally be on the same stage Thursday night for a debate.

The debate is a big opportunity for the 10 candidates to share their message with the public. While some are hoping to hold onto their status as top contenders, others are banking on having breakout moments while millions are watching.


After months of anticipation, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren will finally stand side by side.

A new CNN poll shows Warren closing in on the current front-runner, former Vice President Biden, adding even more pressure and demanding top performances from both.

Biden is likely to continue banking on his electability argument.

"We cannot, and I will not, let this man be reelected president of the United States of America," Biden said Saturday in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Warren's tactics have tended to focus on sweeping reforms and policy proposals.

"Being willing to confront the big problems in this country and then producing plans, real plans, for a big structural change," she said.


RELATED: 10 Democrats take the stage in Texas. Here's what to watch for.

Biden will be sandwiched on stage between Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the two most progressive candidates.

The top three could also face fire from the seven other candidates on stage, all of whom will be hoping to use the event to catapult their standing in the polls and break away from the lower-tier pack.

Former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro was the last candidate to qualify for the debate in Houston. He has received good reviews from his first two debates, but they really haven't moved polling numbers.

"We have a very good team of folks who have helped for me to prepare. It's not all me by myself, but I think mostly what's helped is that, partly, that I've had some experience dealing with pressure situations, and that's a pressure situation with 15 million people, 20 million people, watching you and knowing that you have other folks that are coming at you," Castro said. "You've got to try and make your point and also be persuasive."

Castro pointed to the keynote address he gave at the Democratic National Convention in support of then-candidate and now-former President Barack Obama as an experience that has helped. He also said when he was part of the president's cabinet, he was placed in high-pressure situations from which he's learned.

With the debate taking place on the campus of Texas Southern University, lots of extra security measures are in place there, and just as there is just as much anticipation.

Students and other people who may or may not live nearby are preparing to hear what the Democratic presidential hopefuls have to say during the debate, which will be held at the Granville Sawyer Auditorium.

Texas Southern University police and other employees are standing by at the auditorium to make sure everyone who enters has a preregistered ticket.

The auditorium has a capacity of 1,800 people and is expected to be filled around 6:30 p.m.

There are ceremonial events taking place in another building nearby before the debate begins, and there is also another watch party happening across campus.

Students told KSAT they were proud knowing their alma mater was chosen to host the historic event.

"For me to be a sophomore, to get the (historically black colleges and universities) experience, this is something that would normally happen at a (predominately white institution), but they chose our university, our institution," said Kameron Williams, a sports management major student.

"It brings awareness to our school. As we know, (historically black colleges and universities) don't get a lot of appreciation, so this is very, very important for our school and to me," said Brianna Melton, a senior studying health administration.

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