Warren leads Democrats into first night of 2020 debates

On the eve of the first major gathering of Democratic Party candidates in the 2020 race for President, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) drew over a thousand interested Democrats to a town hall gathering at Florida International University on Monday, pressing the case for the federal government to do more to help working Americans find economic security in the future.

"I don't want a government that works for big corporations, I want one that works for families," Warren said to applause, making the case for a higher minimum wage for workers, major ethics reforms for government officials, voting reforms, major tax changes, and more.

"Let's start with a wealth tax in America," said Warren, as she called for 'big structural change in this country,' rattling off a number of her policy ideas, getting big cheers for new limits on lobbying, action on climate change, and better wages for all workers.

“A full time minimum wage job in America will not get a momma and a baby out of poverty,” Warren said.  “That is wrong, and that is why I am in this fight.”

Of the ten Democrats on the debate stage Wednesday night, Warren is by far the strongest candidate in the first group, as she has been gaining momentum in recent weeks in a variety of polls.

The four other top Democrats in the race will be on stage together on Thursday - Biden, Buttigieg, Harris and Sanders.

Along with Warren, two other Democrats attracted press attention in south Florida before the Wednesday debate, as Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington State talked about his signature issue of climate change, and ex-Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas rallied with teachers in Miami.

"It's a great opportunity for me to listen to you, to have the chance to introduce myself," said O'Rourke, who is one of the better known names on the first night of the Democratic debate.

The first debate night in Miami features three Democratic Senators (Booker, Klobuchar, Warren), two House members (Gabbard, Ryan), two former House members (Delaney, O'Rourke), one current mayor (DeBlasio), one former mayor and Cabinet member (Castro), and one Governor (Inslee).

While some like Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) arrived in Florida on Tuesday afternoon - getting unsolicited advice along the way from fellow passengers on her flight to Miami - Inslee was for a second day hammering away at his main issue of climate change.

"Today we're announcing a new freedom in America, and that's freedom from fossil fuels," Inslee said at an event in the Everglades.

Inslee followed up his Everglades visit with a Tuesday evening event where he took shots at Big Oil.

For most of the Democrats over the next two nights, there is a simple game plan.

"Our goal," a memo to reporters from Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) said, "Introduce Cory to Democrats tuning in for the first time," noting that when you do the math, each candidate is only going to get between seven and eleven minutes of total speaking time.

"I can’t wait to share with you my vision for a more just and fair nation," Booker said.

Meanwhile, Warren was making plans for an impromptu visit on Wednesday to a facility south of Miami, where immigrant children detained by border authorities are being held.

“I'm going to Homestead,” Warren said to cheers after being urged to focus on the issue by an activist at a town hall meeting in Miami.

“If you can come, come and join us,” Warren urged the crowd, as her campaign set a 10:45 am visit on Wednesday, which seems all but certain to draw extra news media attention, just hours before the first night of the Democratic debates.

While Warren was on the move, her colleague Sen. Booker was doing more mundane things at the same time back in Washington, D.C. - helping people put their suitcases in the overhead bin on his flight to Miami.