When Are the 2020 Democratic Primary Debates, and How Can I Watch Them?


The 2020 presidential race is in full swing, and there’s a mind-boggling number of Democratic primary candidates vying for the party’s official spot. Luckily for voters, the debates are well on their way. Here, everything you need to know.

When is the December debate?

The sixth and final debate of 2019 will be hosted by PBS NewsHour and Politico at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles on December 19.

According to Business Insider, the debate will be moderated by PBS NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff, PBS NewsHour White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor, PBS NewsHour senior national correspondent Amna Nawaz, and Politico chief political correspondent Tim Alberta.

In case you missed any of the previous debates, here’s a rundown: The first Democratic primary debates took place on June 26 and June 27 in Miami, Florida. The second round of debates were hosted by CNN in Detroit on July 30 and 31, and the third debate was hosted by ABC News in partnership with Univision on September 12 in Houston, Texas. The fourth debate was co-hosted by CNN and the New York Times on October 15 in Westerville, Ohio. The fifth debate was co-hosted by MSNBC and the Washington Post on November 20 in Atlanta. The November debate was also the second time a major political debate was moderated by all women.

How can I watch it?

According to Business Insider, the December debate will be available to watch live on all local PBS stations as well as on CNN, CNN International, and CNN En Español. It will also be available to watch on PBS.com, Politico.com, CNN.com, and CNN and PBS iOS, Android, Chromecast, Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon apps.

What about the 2020 debates?

NPR reports that while the December debate is the last debate of 2019, the DNC has announced four 2020 debates in early-voting states in the lead up to their primaries or caucuses:

  • Jan. 14 in Iowa
  • Feb. 7 in New Hampshire
  • Feb. 19 in Nevada
  • Feb. 25 in South Carolina

    Is everyone debating?

    Definitely not. For the first and second round debates, the Democratic National Committee announced that candidates had two paths to qualifying:

    1. “Register 1% or more support in three polls (which may be national polls, or polls in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and/or Nevada) publicly released between January 1, 2019, and 14 days prior to the date of the Organization Debate.” (Read more about the specific polling restrictions here.)
    2. 65,000 unique donors, with a minimum of 200 unique donors per state in at least 20 U.S. states.
      1. But after the first two debates, things got even trickier. To qualify for the third and fourth debates, candidates needed to meet stricter requirements:

        1. Register at least 2% support in four qualifying polls released between June 28 and August 28
        2. 130,000 unique donors, with a minimum of 400 unique donors per state in at least 20 U.S. states.
          1. The DNC then raised the requirements for qualifying for the November debates. Candidates needed to meet these to appear onstage:

            1. Hit at least 3% support in four approved national surveys or early-state polls, or hit at least 5% support in two approved early-state polls
            2. Have 165,000 unique donors with at least 600 donors from at least 20 states.
              1. And to appear on stage for the December debates, Politico reported they had to meet these qualifications:

                1. Hit 4% support in at least four approved national or early-state polls, or hit 6% support in two approved early-state polls
                2. Have 200,000 unique donors with at least 800 donors in at least 20 states.
                  1. So, who has qualified for December?

                    Seven candidates have qualified for the December debate: Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Tom Steyer, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Andrew Yang.

                    Notably, Kamala Harris qualified for the debate but dropped out of the race in early December.

                    But will the candidates be boycotting the debate?

                    As of Friday, all seven candidates who qualified for the debate announced that they’re prepared to boycott the debate in solidarity with campus workers who plan to picket outside the venue.

                    According to Vox, “Unite Here Local 11—a union that represents 150 cooks, dishwashers, cashiers, and servers on LMU’s campus who are employed by the food services company Sodexo—plans to picket at the debate next Thursday to express their disapproval of Sodexo’s handling of negotiations with the union.” Warren was the first to announce she would not cross the picket line, followed shortly by Sanders.

                    CBS reports that the DNC has already relocated the December debate once before due to a labor dispute at the original location, the University of California, Los Angeles.

                    Will the qualifications change going forward?

                    On Saturday, nine candidates sent a letter to the DNC asking for the Democratic party to “ease the qualification requirements for upcoming debates,” according to Vox. Sen. Cory Booker led the efforts, though all seven candidates who qualified for the December debate also signed, as well as former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro. The letter asked the DNC to allow candidates to fulfill one qualification requirement, either polling or donor numbers, instead of both. Part of the letter’s argument was that the strict requirements have led to a “decline of candidates of color in a primary field once heralded for being the most diverse in US history.”

                    The DNC resisted in a statement provided to Politico, saying: “The DNC has led a fair and transparent process and even told campaigns almost a year ago that the qualification criteria would go up later in the year—not one campaign objected. The DNC will not change the threshold for any one candidate and will not revert back to two consecutive nights with more than a dozen candidates. Our qualification criteria is extremely low and reflects where we are in the race. Once voting starts in February, our criteria will reflect those contests, which is more than appropriate. We’re proud to have given candidates so many opportunities to get their message across, and will continue to have fair criteria that reflects each point in the race.”

                    The New York Times also reported that the DNC chairman Tom Perez has decided that for the January debate, candidates will need to reach both donor and polling thresholds to qualify. However, Perez indicated that “he may scrap the thresholds altogether or substitute early-state results, or use a combination of both, as qualifying metrics for the five debates the party is planning for February, March and April.”

                    ELLE.com will continue to update this post.



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