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What you need to know about the first Democratic primary debate

Annalisa Merelli
By Annalisa Merelli

Geopolitics reporter

The very crowded club of Democratic hopefuls to the US presidency isn’t closing its doors to new members just yet: the latest of the 25 official candidates joined the race just yesterday.

But for those who have been campaigning for a while, things are about to get real. The first round of debates is scheduled for this week (June 26, 27), with 20 of the candidates sharing the stage, ten at a time, to discuss their proposals for America.

Where and when are the debates?

The debates will be held at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami.

First night: June 26, 9pm to 11pm US eastern time. 

Second night: June 27, 9pm to 11pm US eastern time.

How can I watch it?

On TV: The debate will be broadcast on NBC News, MSNBC, and Telemundo (in Spanish).

Online: NBC News and MSNBC will stream the debate on their websites, and so will the NBC News mobile app. Telemundo will stream it in Spanish on all its digital channels. Additionally, NBC News’ Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter accounts will show the debate live.

What’s the schedule?

There will be 10 candidates on stage each night. To make both debates relevant, each will feature some of the leading candidates, as well as some of the least popular so far.

On June 26, the following will be on stage, from the viewer’s left to right:

  • Bill de Blasio
  • Tim Ryan
  • Julián Castro
  • Cory Booker
  • Elizabeth Warren
  • Beto O’Rourke
  • Amy Klobuchar
  • Tulsi Gabbard
  • Jay Inslee
  • John Delaney

On June 27, the stage will be taken by:

  • Marianne Williamson
  • John Hickenlooper
  • Andrew Yang
  • Pete Buttigieg
  • Joe Biden
  • Bernie Sanders
  • Kamala Harris
  • Kirsten Gillibrand
  • Michael Bennet
  • Eric Swalwell

How were the groups decided?

The candidates were randomly drawn from two groups, one of leading candidates—those with at least 2% support in each of the 10 polls used as reference—and one with all other candidates.

Who are the leading candidates?

  • Joe Biden
  • Bernie Sanders
  • Elizabeth Warren
  • Pete Buttigieg
  • Kamala Harris
  • Beto O’Rourke
  • Cory Booker
  • Amy Klobuchar

Who isn’t going?

Steve Bullock, Mike Gravel, Seth Moulton, and Wayne Messam didn’t qualify to participate in the debate. Joe Sestak, who announced his bid on Sunday, won’t participate either.

How did candidates qualify to participate?

There were two ways to qualify for the early debates. A candidate needed to get support from at least 1% of voters in three or more national polls from reputable organizations.

Candidates could also qualify if they had at least 65,000 donors, in at least 20 states, with no less than 200 donors in each of the states.

For the following debates, the threshold will be at least 2% in at least four polls.

Who will ask the questions?

There will be five anchors for both nights, all from NBC:

  • Lester Holt
  • Savannah Guthrie
  • Chuck Todd
  • Rachel Maddow
  • José Diaz-Balart

What questions will be asked?

The questions will be at the discretion of the hosts and won’t be announced ahead of the debate.

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