AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The 10 candidates who qualified for the third debate in Houston will take the stage Thursday evening at Texas Southern University.
“I think with every debate, the stakes get higher for everybody involved, but particularly for those that we’re not thinking of in the top tier of candidates,” said Jim Henson with the Texas Politics Project.
Henson says it will be a new chance to stand out for some of the candidates.
“Some people will try to get the soundbites,” he said. “Some of those candidates will probably try to do it at the expense of somebody else in that top tier. I think the person who is going to have to really look out for that the most is going to be Joe Biden.”
Several nationwide polls have the former vice president holding a lead. The latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll shows Biden in first place in among Democratic voters in the Lone Star State, ahead of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who is in third place. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, the other Texan vying for the Democratic presidential nomination, is tied for seventh place.
“In this case, it’s important for both Beto O’Rourke and Julian Castro that as they come home to Texas, they need to make the case that they need a second look, frankly, from most people,” Henson said. “I think what you can expect both candidates to do is to say they deserve a second look because they’re good candidates and to say that Texas is important.”
Debate watchers will likely hear about healthcare and gun violence, which are among the top issues that Democrats are paying attention to, Henson said.
But gun control will be a tricky subject for both O’Rourke and Castro to address, he adds.
The debate over policies to address the issue has amplified after the two mass shootings in August that took place in El Paso and in Midland-Odessa. Both O’Rourke and Castro have outlined gun safety plans.
“On one hand, the Texas candidates can say we’re familiar with these problems because they’re so front and center in our state,” he said. “On the other hand, they leave themselves open to the criticism that they’re from the state and they’ve done nothing about it so far.”
The debate will begin at 7 p.m. Central.