(WASHINGTON) — Ahead of the second of the Democratic 2020 presidential primary debates, candidates are redoubling efforts to ensure they meet critical fundraising and polling thresholds to make it on stage in the hopes of distinguishing themselves from their competitors and pitching their campaigns to millions of voters.
The debates are just two weeks away, and the candidates find out Wednesday if they’ll make it onstage.
Here’s what you need to know about the upcoming debates:
When and where are the second DNC debates?
The second of the Democratic party’s 2020 primary presidential primary debates are at 8 p.m. ET July 30-31 in Detroit. The July debates will be hosted by CNN and CNN en Español. CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash, The Lead Anchor and Chief Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper and CNN Tonight Anchor Don Lemon will moderate both debate nights.
Twenty candidates will participate over the two nights, with 10 candidates appearing each night.
Candidates will be informed Wednesday as to whether they will be participating in the debates, one day after the last day to qualify for them. The line up will be determined in a live drawing, which CNN will broadcast on July 18 in the 8 p.m. ET hour, according to a network spokesperson.
How do candidates qualify for the second debates?
The Democratic National Committee announced in February the thresholds required to gain entrance into the party’s first two presidential debates, setting benchmarks for polling and grassroots fundraising that represent the first tangible effort to pare down an already crowded field of candidates.
The third Democratic primary debate will be hosted by ABC News in partnership with Univision and is scheduled for Sept. 12-13. The qualifying rules are different for this debate, and the fourth debate in October.
In order to qualify for the debates at the end of July, candidates must earn at least 1% support in three separate national or early-state polls conducted from Jan. 1 to two weeks before the given debate, which is Tuesday for the upcoming debates, or receive donations from at least 65,000 people across 20 different states, with a minimum of 200 unique donors per state.
The number of debate participants has been capped at 20 by the DNC.
Who’s qualified for the second debates so far?
Based on an analysis by ABC News, 14 of the 25 candidates have met both the polling and grassroots fundraising thresholds, virtually guaranteeing them a spot on stage.
In alphabetical order, those candidates are:
- Former Vice President Joe Biden
- New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker
- South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg
- Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro
- Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard
- New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
- California Sen. Kamala Harris
- Washington Gov. Jay Inslee
- Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar
- Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke
- Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders
- Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren
- Best-selling author and activist Marianne Williamson
- Tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang
For the remaining 11 candidates, six have qualified based on polling only:
Those candidates are:
- Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet
- Montana Gov. Steve Bullock
- New York Mayor Bill de Blasio
- Former Maryland Rep. John Delaney
- Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper
- Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan
California Rep. Eric Swalwell, who dropped out of the race on July 8, had also qualified for the debates after crossing the polling threshold. Even if he stayed in the race, Bullock edged Swalwell out for the 20th spot on the stage for the second debates, according to the DNC’s tiebreaker rules, since Bullock has received 1% in more polls than Swalwell.
According to his campaign, former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel hit the grassroots fundraising threshold Friday night, but he still needs to cross the polling threshold in order to land on a debate stage.
Candidates have until midnight to qualify.
Who’s likely to be left off the debate stage?
There are five candidates who viewers likely won’t be seeing on either night.
According to an ABC News analysis, while Gravel has qualified based on grassroots fundraising, he only has one poll with 1% support, and polling takes primacy over the donor threshold, so unless he acquires two more polls with at least 1% support before the deadline Tuesday, he likely won’t be on stage.
The candidates who haven’t reached either qualifying threshold are Miramar, Florida Mayor Wayne Messam, who has two polls with 1% support; Tom Steyer, the latest to enter the race, who has zero qualifying polls; Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, who has zero qualifying polls; and former Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak, who has zero qualifying polls.
What are the rules for the debates?
Candidates will have an opportunity to give both opening and closing statements and have two hours to debate on stage, CNN said. The presidential hopefuls will have 60 seconds to answer questions from the moderators and 30 seconds to respond to follow up questions and rebuttals. If invoked by name by another candidate, the candidate will have 30 seconds to respond. Candidates who repeatedly interrupt will have their time reduced, according to CNN.
As far as types of questions, CNN said there would be “no show of hands or one-word, down-the-line questions,” which were done during the first debates hosted by NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo.
How will the DNC winnow down the field if more than 20 candidates qualify?
If more than 20 candidates qualify, the DNC said those who have met both qualifying thresholds will be the first to make the stage. After that, the candidates who have the highest polling average based on their top three polls will qualify. If there are still spots left after that, candidates with the greatest number of unique donors will qualify.
In the event that multiple candidates have the same polling average and there needs to be a tiebreaker to determine who gets the remaining spot(s), the candidates will be ranked based on who has the greatest number of polls with at least 1% support. Those who have the most will make the stage first.
Are the DNC rules the same for the later debates?
In December, prior to the much of the current field’s entry into the race, DNC Chair Tom Perez revealed the party’s plans to hold a total of 12 debates and split the early events into separate sessions to accommodate the expected quantity of candidates. Six of the Democratic Party’s 12 debates will take place in 2019 and six in 2020.
For the next round of debates happening later this year, the DNC announced new, more stringent qualifying rules that up the ante to qualify for the September debate, hosted by ABC News and Univision, and for the debate to follow, slated to take place in October.
In order to qualify for the September and October debates, the DNC requires candidates to meet both polling and grassroots funding criteria, and have doubled the thresholds: a candidate must receive 2% or more support in at least four national polls or polls out of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and/or Nevada, and candidates must have received donations from at least 130,000 unique donors over the course of the election cycle, with a minimum of 400 unique donors per state in at least 20 states.
The new qualifying rules ramp up the pressure on many in the crowded Democratic field, which has grown to 25 candidates total.
Will there be a climate debate?
Inslee, who is centering his campaign on the issue of climate change, has repeatedly urged the DNC to make one of the 12 presidential debates solely focused on climate policy. But after repeated calls from the Washington governor, activists, top members of the committee, and even several candidates signaling their openness to a climate debate, Perez said he would not amend the current rules to include one this cycle, instead saying that climate change will be featured front and center during this cycle’s debates.
But at a July meeting of the DNC’s executive committee, party leaders asked the organization to consider a proposal that allows the candidates to participate in a climate debate (not necessarily hosted by the DNC) without facing penalty. It will be decided on at the committee’s August meeting.
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