The Democratic candidates vying for the chance to topple President Trump in 2020 will face off for the first time this Wednesday and Thursday evenings.
The ever-growing field of presidential hopefuls has been whittled down to a mere 20 candidates for the first Democratic presidential primary debates. And in an attempt at quality over quantity, the debaters have been split into two randomized groups: Ten candidates will debate on June 26, and the other ten will square off the following evening.
This week’s debates will be the first chance for voters to compare in real time the candidate's plans for the country, where they stand on crucial policy issues—such as healthcare and taxes—as well as spot any possible red flags that may emerge in a high-pressure situation like these debates.
HOW TO WATCH
The debates, held in Miami, Florida, will be broadcast on NBC, MSNBC, and Telemundo, and are slated to run from 9-11 p.m. Eastern time each night. If you’re watching online, the debates can be live-streamed via NBCNews.com, the NBC News apps, Telemundo, or NBC News’ Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts.
Slated to prod the candidates are NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt, MSNBC primetime host Rachel Maddow, Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd, Today Show co-anchor Savannah Guthrie, and Noticias Telemundo anchor José Diaz-Balart.
NBC will ultimately decide what questions the candidates will be asked, but the network is soliciting questions from the public here.
WHAT ARE THE LINEUPS?
Night One (Wednesday)
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
- Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX)
- Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)
- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio
- Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
- Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI)
- Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA)
- Former HUD Sec. Julian Castro (D-FL)
- Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH)
- Former Rep. John Delaney (D-MD)
- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
- Former Vice President Joe Biden (D-DE)
- South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg
- Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA)
- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
- Entrepreneur Andrew Yang
- Author Marianne Williamson
- Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper
- Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO)
- Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA)
NBC is striving for brevity during these first debates. The network will break up the two-hour debates into five segments with four commercial breaks. According to their published rules, each candidate will have 60 seconds to answer a question and 30 seconds for a follow-up. No candidate will be allowed opening statements, but will be given time to make a closing statement, for which NBC has not given a time limit.
WHAT TO WATCH OUT FOR
Each candidate is looking to define themselves to the American public, and fast. Who will emerge successful could be determined by which candidate appears most equipped to challenge Trump, or the Democratic establishment, or both at the same time.
So far, the Democratic primary has been led by former president Joe Biden. Since he first announced his candidacy in April, the ex-veep has been the frontrunner in most major polls. While the early lead could be due in large part to name recognition, this first debate offers other high-polling candidates like Sanders, Harris, and Buttigieg to take swings at him on the first night.
Debaters on Biden’s tail are expected to frame their talking points with the former vice president's popularity close in mind.
Warren is the only candidate polling in the top five of the Democratic field who was not placed in the same debate as Biden. As such, the second night, stacked with the remaining four top candidates, has been unofficially deemed the “main stage.”
While high-polling Warren and O’Rourke will not be able to take on Biden this time around, their first-evening debate could afford them the opportunity to make clear their visions and distinguish themselves from night two’s frontrunners.
WHAT WILL likely BE DEBATED?
NBC has remained tight-lipped on what questions will be lobbed at the candidates on Wednesday and Thursday night.
Though the network has not released any information about which topics will be covered, it is expected that the two-night event will in some respect cover the Trump administration, immigration, health care, gun control, abortion, the economy, and foreign policy.
With the Trump administration’s child-separation policy currently enraging many Americans, and serving as a rallying cry for the Democratic Party, the immigration discussion will likely zero in on admonishing the president. The key will be what, if any, solution each candidate can articulate beyond reversing Trump’s policies.
WHEN ARE THE NEXT DEBATES?
July 30 and 31 on CNN.
One candidate who missed the qualifications for this week’s debates, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D), announced that he has qualified for the July debates. There will be 12 Democratic primary debates overall, with six taking place in 2019.