Sen. Elizabeth Warren will have a plan for that. Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke will have to make his case without jumping on a table. And Sen. Cory Booker will seek to reclaim his mantle as America’s favorite Rhodes Scholar-turned-mayor.
The three Democratic presidential candidates will face off Wednesday — along with seven others — at the first 2020 primary debate as they seek to dethrone frontrunner Joe Biden, who will be on stage at a second debate the following night.
Warren, who is now polling just behind Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, will seek to capitalize on her recent momentum by highlighting her detailed proposals to raise taxes on people with more than $50 million in assets, pay off student loans and make college tuition-free, create government-funded child care centers and fight the opioid epidemic, among other things.
But first she’ll have to deal with challenges from O’Rourke, who has bet his turnaround on a $5 trillion plan to fight climate change; as well as from Booker and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who have put forward more moderate proposals as they seek the centrist lane to the nomination currently dominated by Biden.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the first Democratic primary debate.When is the first Democratic primary debate? Zach Gibson—Getty Images Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks during the North American Building Trades Unions Conference at the Washington Hilton April 10, 2019 in Washington, DC.
On Wednesday, June 26, the first Democratic primary debate will be broadcast on NBC News, MSNBC and Telemundo, from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern. The second debate will air the following night.How can I watch the debate?
The debates will be available to watch on NBC, MSNBC, and Telemundo at 9 p.m. on both nights and will be available to stream for free on NBCNews.com, MSNBC.com, and the NBC News app, as well as all Telemundo digital platforms, marking the first time a Spanish-language channel will host a Democratic presidential debate.Who will be at the first Democratic debate? Charlie Neibergall—AP Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker speaks during the Iowa Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame Celebration, Sunday, June 9, 2019, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
The Wednesday debate will feature Warren, O’Rourke, Booker, Klobuchar, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan and former Maryland Rep. John Delaney.OK, who won’t be at the first Democratic debate? Tom Williams—CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images Former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel in 2008.
The historically large field has been split up across Wednesday and Thursday. Each night will feature two randomly-selected slates of ten candidates.
On the second night, Biden will take the stage alongside Sanders; California Sen. Kamala Harris; South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg; New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand; Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet; former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper; California Rep. Eric Swalwell; entrepreneur Andrew Yang and self-help author Marianne Williamson.
Four other candidates — Montana Gov. Steve Bullock; Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton; Miramar, Fla., Mayor Wayne Messam; and former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel — failed to meet minimum criteria and won’t be appearing on either stage.
That’s a blow for Gravel, in particular, as the rationale for his campaign — run mostly on Twitter by two teens — was mostly to get on the stage to force the debate to cover his more out-of-the-box policy ideas.
State of the #Gravelanche: folks, due to weeks of pollsters not including us, we won't be on stage for the June debate. However, with 48,000 donors and rising, and with Mike now included on every poll in the past few weeks, with your support we are on track for the July debate.
— Sen. Mike Gravel (@MikeGravel) June 13, 2019
Bullock, who has already qualified for the second Democratic debates, will hold televised town halls in Iowa and New Hampshire on both nights.
Trump has considered responding to the debates in real time on Twitter. Asked during a live phone interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity whether he would be live-tweeting, Trump replied, “I wasn’t thinking about it, but maybe I will now.”Why are they holding the debates this way? Seth Wenig—AP In this April 14, 2016 file photo, former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, speaks as Hillary Clinton listens during the CNN Democratic Presidential Primary Debate at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York.
The format was designed to avoid the biggest problems of the 2016 debates: an overly large Republican field that led to a little-watched “kids table” debate with the lower-polling candidates and accusations of favoritism in the Hillary Clinton-Bernie Sanders debates.
Instead, the Democratic National Committee set a limit of 20 candidates and required them to either poll at 1% or more in three separate polls from a pre-approved list or raise money from at least 65,000 unique donors. The top tier, defined as those at 2% or more, were split among the two debates.
Once the lottery had been conducted and the two groups had been formed, NBC decided to put the lineup with Biden, the frontrunner, on the second night to “maximize viewership.”
NBC chose five moderators for the debate: “Today” co-anchor Savannah Guthrie, NBC Nightly News host Lester Holt, “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow and “Noticias Telemundo” host José Diaz-Balart.What will the candidates be asked at the debate? Boston Globe—Boston Globe via Getty Images Senator and presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar speaks during a town hall event in Rye, NH on March 23, 2019.
That’s up to the moderators and the Democratic Party. Democratic National Committee head Tom Perez told Vox that they are working with the networks to “ensure they’re focused on the issues.”
“We’re not going to be talking about hand size,” he said, alluding to one of the weirder moments in the 2016 Republican debates.
A recent Morning Consult poll showed that the top issues for Democratic voters are the economy, health care and senior issues. The same survey found that in light of a wave of new abortion laws in several states, women’s issues are rising as a priority for Democrats.
The candidates will also likely be asked about recent issues in the news, including a bill to study whether African-Americans should be given reparations for the effects of slavery, Iran’s recent saber-rattling and poor conditions in migrant detention centers being run by the Trump Administration.Which candidates are likely to clash onstage? Pool—Getty Images U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) debates U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) at the KENS 5 studios on October 16, 2018 in San Antonio, Texas. He took part in a solo CNN town hall on Thursday.
Warren vs. O’Rourke
Warren and O’Rourke are both high-profile candidates who stumbled. O’Rourke entered the 2020 campaign with national name recognition leftover from an unsuccessful race against Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, but has since fizzled in the polls. Warren’s campaign got off to a bad start when she was criticized for taking a DNA test in an attempt to prove Native American ancestry. She seems to have recovered in recent polls, vying with Sanders for second place in recent polls.
O’Rourke vs. Inslee
The former congressman and the governor have both put out bold plans to fight climate change. Inslee, who recently signed landmark legislation in Washington state, is essentially running as a single-issue candidate, while O’Rourke attempted to reboot his campaign when he debuted a $5 trillion climate plan in late April.
Booker vs. Klobuchar
These two senators are known as pragmatic or bipartisan, but both have tried to avoid alienating primary voters from the Democratic base. Klobuchar, who once called the Green New Deal “aspirational,” declared on June 18 that she would “build on the framework” in her first 100 days as president. But for either to break out of the pack, they’ll need to do more to get attention.When and where are the next debates?
The next debates — the second of twelve — will be broadcast on CNN from Detroit on July 30 and 31.
Will Kubzansky contributed to this report.