For those who wonder what the purpose is in having 20 candidates debate over two nights for President this far ahead of any caucus or primary, it’s important to note that a party’s platform and the long-term political ambitions of an individual don’t always require winning.
“It’s the old marketplace of ideas,” said Emporia State political scientist Michael Smith. “A number of these candidates are younger to middle-aged. Senator [Cory] Booker, for example, Senator [Kirsten] Gillibrand, they could run again for President or seek other advances in their political careers. They’re probably not going to be the nominee this time.”
One of the big changes that is apparent in the number of U.S. Senators seeking the Presidency is the change in the role of the Senate.
“We’re becoming a more executive-centered system of government,” said Smith. “It’s astonishing to me, all these early term Senators that are running, because, back in the day, being a U.S. Senator, in and of itself, was considered one of the highest honors and most Senators, again, thinking of Kansans like Bob Dole and Nancy Kassebaum, they fought to distinguish themselves in the Senate.”
Though Joe Biden is known best now for his time as Vice President under Barack Obama, he was one of those type of Senators.
“Joe Biden first started serving in the Senate in the early 1970s,” said Smith. “He served in a different body. You bet he made deals with segregationist Senators, because that’s how it worked. That doesn’t mean he was pro-segregation, but he did cut those deals. He did compromise on things like the Hyde Amendment, cutting off federal funding for abortions, things like that, which progressives don’t like. He’s from a different generation and a different era.”
The third set of debates will be held next month in Houston. It will only be a set if more than 10 candidates qualify and are still in the race.