Sen. Bernie Sanders (left) recovers after his heart attack and former Vice President Joe Biden is under siege and adds President Donald Trump. | Win McNamee / Getty Images
But with Sanders heart attack, impeachment and Trump's move to withdraw troops from Syria, it is unclear how much time any candidate will need to make such a case on their own.
"In the past, they established their own politics and their own conversation," said Sean Bagniewski, president of the Iowa Polk County Democrats. "Now they talk a lot about the same things."
Bagniewski said the focus on impeachment and Trump's foreign policy can help voters better compare candidates in the still-scattered field, with external events that draw their attention to the same topics.
"People really differ in the same set tning issues … impeachment, what is happening in Syria and many other places, he said, "People are actually starting to look at who would be the best leader in challenging times like these."
For the candidates themselves, Marc Farinella, who ran when Senator Barack Obama's presidential campaign in North Carolina in 2008, said: "It's probably really frustrating for them, I would think – the fact that the latest political announcements or what they're doing The campaign trail hardly gets any attention at all, not even for the leading candidates. "
He said," The impeachment stuff sort of blacks out everything else. A discussion about politics disappears. Everything that happens on the promotional track disappears. It's huge. "
For months, the 2020 presidential primaries had largely marched forward on their own terms – a steady pace of political proposals, fundraisers, minor accidents between rival candidates and organizing offensive in the early nominating states.
However, unlike previous months, few presidential observers this week are considering how many times Biden will associate with Obama in the upcoming debate, or how much time will be spent on climate change.
Health reporters after an LGBTQ forum last week, Late Cory Booker noted the significance of the incident but said – rightly – that "I suspect it will not be what you want to talk about."
"Politics is unpredictable," said Mark Longabaugh, a senior adviser to Sanders 2016 presidential campaign. “Of course, the Sanders team had not planned for the candidate to have a health incident, but it happened. Now you have to deal with it and move on. I'm sure, to some extent, the Biden people would rather not have to deal with the malicious behavior of the president … But they are stuck in the middle of it.
He said, "But here it is. So for them, it is an external event that they must be able to roll with."
Trump's substantiated attacks on Biden do not appear to have harmed him with Democratic voters. A Fox News poll last week found that 21 percent of Democrats say Trump's claims about Biden and his son's business make them more likely to vote for Biden, only 10 percent say they're less likely to do so. Thirty-two percent say that they are less likely to vote for Sanders because of concerns about his health, compared to 15 percent who say they are more likely to do so.
Even before Sander's heart attack and Trump's release at Biden, Ukraine, Elizabeth Warren had Strong wave in public opinion polls has become problematic for both Biden and Sanders – RealClearPolitics polling average placed her ahead of Biden for the first time And this week, Warren is unhindered by Sanders health scare or Biden's family connections.
Longabaugh said: "To the extent that Sanders and Biden campaigns have challenges they need to address – different challenges – I think Elizabeth Warren is in a commanding position here. She is messaging, she has been on the road and rising. She has run the best campaign for anyone in the field. And I think when you're in a race and a couple of the other two prominent candidates are facing challenges, and you're still running in the clean air, just to be crass about it, it's Warren's advantage. "
Sanders has taken action in recent days to reassure his followers about his health and told CNN last week that he is" sure we will run a very vigorous campaign. "And Biden has vigorously pushed back the coverage of his son's business in Ukraine, told reporters to focus entirely on allegations that Trump abused his power by asking a foreign leader to investigate the Biden family. Biden directly appealed for Trump's violence last week.
Joel Payne, a Democratic strategist who working on Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign, said that despite Trump's accusations against Biden being discredited, "much of what Biden is afflicted with and being published is a lot of the same things Hillary cast as – a creature of Washington, a tool in the system . "
For a progressive Democrat like Warren or Sanders, Payne said," It's a perfect thing to attack if they wanted to. But I think they will both loathe to do so … You don't want to be seen as carrying Trump's water or promoting the argument. "
Warren herself is not without responsibility – and Biden seems increasingly willing to criticize her for the cost of progressive politics she proposes. In a veil over the senator known for his extensive political actions, Biden said last week, "It takes a proven ability to get things done … We don't choose a planner."
Doug Herman, a Democrat strategist, said Biden "made a pretty clean hit." And he suggested that Biden, Warren and Sanders are all now vulnerable to attacks from an increasingly desperate area of lower level challengers.
It was in October 2007 – the same month in the election calendar – that Hillary Clinton turned into a bleak debate against six Philadelphia opponents when longshot Chris Dodd started a pillar around Clinton's weaving around the issue of undocumented immigrants should be granted a driver's license.
This year Herman said: "Sanders has the coronary vessels. Warren has several problems that she can suffer from, and then you have the type of Chris Dodds of the year … What does Beto do? What is Yang doing? What do the candidates at the back of the package do? How do they make themselves relevant and at whose expense? ”
Geoff Potter, who was Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's debate director before Inslee left the presidential election in August, he said earlier this year. "Everyone assumed that when we got to this point … there would be lots of fewer candidates on stage."
But like many Democrats, Potter believes that the race is still fluid and that "the lesson, I think, is not to try to put his hair on proverbs."
He said, "It's maybe the big variable that we don't know about in all of this: the degree to which individual candidates feel, not that this is their last shot, but that the race is truly unresolved. "