Since the last debate, the three Democratic front-runners remain the same, but their current podium order has begun to shift. Senator Elizabeth Warren, former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders enter the stage tonight with new political shots and chasers:
WARREN — Elizabeth Warren will take the debate stage tonight with more momentum than she's had at any other point in the race so far, according to CBS News Campaign Reporter Zak Hudak. She started the day by releasing a campaign finance reform plan that included new promises such as not taking donations over $200 from tech or bank executives, but it focused mostly on measures she's already suggested or promises she's made, like not holding large dollar fundraisers.
The plan could be seen as preparation for a counter punch to potential attacks in the debate tonight. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, for example, has been contrasting his "Medicare for All Who Want It" plan with Warren's support for Bernie Sanders' "Medicare for All" plan.
BIDEN — It has been 26 days since the first reports of President Trump's request to a foreign government to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter, says CBS News Campaign Reporter Bo Erickson. Biden has hit back hard on the Trump claims of corruption, saying there is "zero" evidence of wrongdoing. But only within the last few days have both Biden and his son addressed the central questions of their Ukrainian connections. In an interview with ABC News on Tuesday, Hunter said he regrets taking the job and insists that he will not take foreign jobs if his father wins the presidency.
Biden has added to this promise and says his family won't be holding White House jobs or attending executive office meetings. His allies believe these responses have been sufficient to ward off any criticism from other Democrat rivals, saying any such remarks would play in to Mr. Trump's hands.
"What you'll hear tonight from the VP is that first and foremost, we have to keep the focus on Donald Trump's unprecedented abuse of power," a Biden adviser told CBS News today.
SANDERS — Is it possible that we live in a world where Bernie Sanders' heart attack helps him, wonders CBS News Campaign Reporter Cara Korte? The bar is perhaps lower for him than it has been since he announced his candidacy (the first time). The senator has a chance to exceed expectations this evening. Could he do that by questioning Elizabeth Warren and her embrace of capitalism? Or her evasiveness about healthcare plan? Could he, when likely asked, say that his children or the children of his vice president would never be allowed to serve on the board of a foreign energy company?
Either way, Sanders must perform tonight. His supporters will be checking to see that he's well. His detractors will be watching even closer.
FROM THE CANDIDATES
Bernie Sanders, on Monday's Indigenous People's Day, became the fifth candidate, after Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, and Julián Castro, to oppose a proposed military expansion into the Desert National Wildlife Refuge, according to CBS News Campaign Reporter Alex Tin. While some of the other White House hopefuls have also cited the move's impact on wildlife and public lands, as highlighted by Nevada conservation activists, the Vermont Democrat focused his opposition on the area's cultural significance to tribes in southern Nevada.
"The U.S. Air Force's proposed expansion into the Desert National Wildlife Refuge is another example of the federal government breaking solemn promises and disregarding the sovereign rights of Native communities," Sanders said in a statement. "I stand in solidarity with our Native American brothers and sisters in opposing this failure to protect tribal treaty."
Tom Steyer's campaign says he doesn't plan to throw any direct punches tonight in his first debate appearance in Ohio. The billionaire activist sees it as a chance to introduce himself to the American people. Campaign spokesperson Alberto Lammers tells CBS News Campaign Reporter Zak Hudak that Steyer "spent the day in debate prep, meeting volunteers, and had lunch with family before a workout later this afternoon."
ON THE ISSUES
Asked in September about her support for "Medicare for All," Elizabeth Warren insisted at the third presidential debate that all Americans—even those in rural communities—could still seek treatment at their local hospitals under the universal healthcare plan. "So let's be clear about this. People will have access to all of their doctors, all of their nurses, their community hospitals, their rural hospitals," the Massachusetts Democrat vowed.
Ahead of tonight's matchup, Campaign reporters Alex Tin and LaCrai Mitchell explore how Democratic presidential candidates are debating which proposals are best to tackle the rural hospital crisis that has impacted places like early states Nevada and South Carolina.
ON THE $$$
Federal candidates for president, the Senate and the House must file their third quarter fundraising numbers with the Federal Election Commission by the end of the day Tuesday. And while some candidates have already revealed their cash hauls from the months of July through September, the numbers will give a better glimpse of where the candidates stand heading into the end of the year said CBS News Political Unit Associate Producer Sarah Ewall-Wice.
It was previously announced that Bernie Sanders raised the most of any Democratic presidential candidate, with $25.3 million raised and more than $33 million cash on hand, while Elizabeth Warren was close behind with $24.6 million. Now we'll find out what they're spending that cash on and where it's coming from, be it voters in early states or contests that take place at later dates.
We'll also get to see how some of the lower-tier candidates are working to stretch their smaller war chests, and if candidates are dolling out more cash than they are raking in. Former federal campaign officials tell CBS News it's OK for presidential candidates to up their spending, but ideally those funds need to go toward expanding ground game efforts at this stage in the race to really make a dent heading into the end of the year.
Meanwhile, records are being broken when it comes to the Senate fundraising. CBS News Political Unit Associate Producer Ellee Watson & CBS News Campaign Reporter LaCrai Mitchell report that Republican Senator Lindsey Graham's reelection campaign raised $3.29 million in the third quarter and has almost $8.4 million in the bank, according to a release from his campaign. Graham's team reports that this is the largest amount of money raised in a single quarter by a candidate in South Carolina's history. The previous record was set by Jim DeMint in 2004.
Jaime Harrison, one of the Democrats looking to challenge Graham in 2020, posted $2.24 million in the third quarter and has $2.6 million cash on hand. As previously reported in CBS News 2020 Trail Markers, Harrison's haul beats the record for money raised in a single quarter by a U.S. Senate Democratic Challenger in South Carolina. Harrison set that record himself in the second quarter this year when he raised $1.5 million.
The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee are in week three of their "Stop the Madness" campaign targeting Democrats for their position on impeachment. The RNC has put up a $2 million television ad buy as well as a $350,000 digital ad buy on Facebook, YouTube, and Hulu to criticize Democrats for focusing on impeachment, reports CBS News Political Unit Associate Producer Eleanor Watson. According to a Senior Trump Campaign official, the committee and the Trump campaign have received 50,000 new donors in the last few weeks, and Trump Victory has received more than double its usual volunteer sign-ups.
On this week's episode of "Where Did You Get This Number?", CBS News' Director of Elections & Surveys Anthony Salvanto takes listeners through the latest CBS News 2020 polls, what the campaigns are doing in Iowa, and how Joe Biden is doing in light of Elizabeth Warren's gains in the polls with CBS News Campaign Reporters Musadiq Bidar & Bo Erickson.