Analysis: Sanders, Gillibrand poised for crowded primary debate

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WASHINGTON (GRAY TV) The 2020 presidential campaign enters a new phase this week as 20 declared Democratic hopefuls face off in their first primary debate in Miami on Wednesday and Thursday. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York made the cut.

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When you put all of their pictures together, you can see just how big a group 20 candidates actually is. That means Senator Bernie Sanders needs to stand out in the crowd.

He's known for being a self-described democratic socialist. Sanders will be one of the most progressive candidates on the stage. He almost stopped Hillary Clinton in 2016.

"What he needs to do is basically move Vice President Biden out of the way. He needs to take credit for any of the more liberal policies that the Democratic Party considered radical when we talked about them back in 2016 and now seems to be more mainstream. He needs to say, 'Those were my ideas,'" said Greta Van Susteren, Gray TV's Chief National Political Analyst.

She says Sanders will need to explain how to make his ideas a reality. "He's for something like free college. And yes, of course everyone would like to have free college. I would like to have free college. But who is going to pay for it? And he says tax payers. Well, that's going to alienate a lot of taxpayers," Van Susteren said.

CAN GILLIBRAND STAND OUT IN CROWDED FIELD OF CANDIDATES?

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is outspoken on women's issues and sexual harassment. She's a strong advocate for women in the military and she supports paid family leave.

The New Yorker worked on Hillary Clinton's 2000 Senate campaign before taking over the seat herself. "It's been her strength in that she gets the women's vote. But you can't run for president and just get the women's vote. She has got to get the men's vote, so she has got to dial it back a bit, and I think that is her challenge," Van Susteren said.

She says Gillibrand's strong rhetoric could even hurt her with some women voters. "There are a lot of women who are not quite as enthusiastic about some of the things that she says. A lot of women think like, look, 'Men aren't all bad. There may be two sides to the coin, or that sexual harassment happened 20 years ago and we had a different culture,'" Van Susteren said.

Get used to seeing these candidates, because the official nominee won't be chosen until July 2020, and that's more than a year away.