Houston mirrors the nation in 3rd Democratic debate

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Finishing touches are underway in Houston for Thursday's ABC News Democratic debate at Texas Southern University.

In just 24 hours, the spin room will be packed with journalists and pundits ready to watch the debate and analyze every bit of it.

It has taken a lot of work from a lot of people, transforming TSU's basketball gym into a debate auditorium, and that includes ABC's political team.

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Involved in the process are ABC News' Political Director Rick Klein and Deputy Political Director MaryAlice Parks. Their insight into the selection of Houston, TSU, and how critical this debate is in the scheme of the 2020 race is enlightening.

"This is a reset moment for the campaign," Parks told Eyewitness News. "After the summer, where they were trekking all around the country at state fairs and picnics, this is a time where we think voters really come back to focus. "

"I think Texas is the perfect microcosm of the state of the Democratic party, maybe of the country," Klein said. "When you look at the recent episodes of gun violence, targeting Mexican Americans in El Paso. When you look at climate change and how real it is for Houstonians. When you look at immigration reform. When you look at the changing demographics of the party, of the country, of the state, all of it seems to converge right here in Texas and right here in Houston."

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Parks said there will be candidates at Thursday's debate that are not used to being on the far wings of the stage.

"People like Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former housing secretary Julian Castro, they've been kind of around the middle because they've had some polling," Parks said. "But at this debate, they're going to be all the way on the wings and they're going to have to make sort of a moment for themselves."

The challenge in creating that moment, Klein says, is deciding which issue in a breadth of possibilities to choose from.

"If you're running for president of the United States, literally any issue under the sun is a viable question to ask. There is no illegitimate issue if someone is trying to be president, especially under the presidency of Donald Trump, where everything seems politicized," Klein said. "That said, the opportunity is to set up a debate that the candidates want to have. To give them the chance to debate the issues. It's their debate. They're the ones who want to be president."

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