NBC News, MSNBC, and Telemundo hosted the first debates on June 26, 2019, and June 27, 2019, at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami, Florida. Twenty candidates appeared over two nights of debates.
The Democratic National Committee published specific debate guidelines spelling out what candidates have to do to participate. Democratic candidates could qualify for the first and second debates by meeting one of the two following criteria:
Polling Method: Participants must register 1% or more support in three polls (national polls or polls in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and/or Nevada) publicly released between Jan. 1, 2019, and 14 days prior to the date of the debate.
DNC approved polls are: The Associated Press, ABC News, CBS News, CNN, Des Moines Register, Fox News, Las Vegas Review Journal, Monmouth University, NBC News, New York Times, National Public Radio (NPR), Quinnipiac University, Reuters, University of New Hampshire, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Winthrop University.
Any candidate’s three qualifying polls must be conducted by different organizations, or if by the same organization, must be in different geographical areas.
Grassroots Funding Method: Candidates may qualify for the debate by demonstrating that the campaign has received donations from at least (1) 65,000 unique donors; and (2) a minimum of 200 unique donors per state in at least 20 U.S. states.
In the event of a tiebreaker, candidates who met both the polling and fundraising criteria would get preference if more than 20 candidates qualified, according to NBC News. Preference then goes to candidates with the highest polling average.
Click to each candidate to see everything they had to say on the first debates.
Savannah Guthrie ("TODAY"), Lester Holt ("NBC Nightly News", "Dateline"), Chuck Todd ("Meet the Press"), Rachel Maddow ("MSNBC") and José Diaz-Balart ("Noticias Telemundo", "NBC Nightly News Saturday").
Holt moderated for both hours. Guthrie and Diaz-Balart co-moderated for the first hour, while Todd and Maddow joined Holt for the second hour.
Gov. Steve Bullock, Rep. Seth Moulton and Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam.
CNN hosted its debate on July 30, 2019, and July 31, 2019, from Detroit, Michigan.
Qualifying rules were the same as for the live drawing on July 18 to determine the debate order for each night.. CNN held a
CNN's Dana Bash, Don Lemon and Jake Tapper.
ABC News hosted the third debate on Sept. 12, 2019, at Texas Southern University in Houston. This debate was harder to qualify for than the first two which, combined with a winnowed field, meant this was the first of the 2020 Democratic debates to have featured all the highest polling candidates on stage at the same time.
Candidates needed to register at least 2% in four major polls conducted last summer and receive donations from at least 130,000 individual donors, including at least 400 in 20 states.
Since only 10 candidates qualified for ABC News' debate under the new standards, they all appeared on stage together for one night. The fourth debate will feature 12 canidates, also on one night.
The podium order, from left to right, was set by polling averages, with the highest polling candidates closest to the center of the debate stage, according to ABC News.
ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, David Muir and Linsey Davis moderated the third debate with Univision's Jorge Ramos.
Two candidates blamed President Donald Trump's anti-immigration rhetoric for an Aug. 3, shooting at an El Paso Walmart that killed 22 people. Beto O'Rourke said the shooter was "inspired to kill by our president," while Kamala Harris said, "He didn't pull the trigger, but he tweeted the ammunition."
O’Rourke also made headlines at the third debate with this line on gun control: “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47. We’re not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore.”
A squabble between Joe Biden and Julián Castro over healthcare policies led to other candidates banding together, with Buttigieg, Klobuchar and Booker each staking their position on the side of party cohesion.
The New York Times and CNN co-hosted the fourth presidential debate in Westerville, Ohio, at Otterbein University on Oct. 15, 2019. Twelve candidates shared the stage over three hours.
This was the second primary debate of 2019 hosted by CNN and the first for the Times in more than a decade, the newspaper reported.
Similiar to the third debate in Houston, candidates needed to register at least 2% in four major polls conducted this summer and receive donations from at least 130,000 individual donors, including at least 400 in 20 states.
CNN anchors Anderson Cooper and Erin Burnett co-moderated the fourth debate with The New York Times' national editor Marc Lacey.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer reappeared on the debate stage for Ohio, after failing to qualify for Houston.
MSNBC and The Washington Post co-hosted the fifth Democratic presidential primary debate at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, Georgia, on Nov. 20, 2019. It was the second time MSNBC hosted a debate of this cycle.
To make the fifth debate, candidates need 165,000 unique donors, with a minimum of 600 donors from 20 states.
Candidates will also need to hit 3% in at least four national or early state polls, or hit 5% in two early state polls.
The fifth debate was notable for its roster of all-women moderators. MSNBC's Rachel Maddow returned for a second time to moderate, along with MSNBC and NBC News' Andrea Mitchell, NBC News' Kristen Welker and Washington Post White House reporter Ashley Parker.
Candidates sparred on healthcare policy in Atlanta, with Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders staunchly pushing Medicare for All, their landmark healthcare policy that aims to eliminate private health insurance from the country.
Moderates Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg pushed back against sweeping healthcare reform, with Buttigieg calling Medicaid for All a "divisive step."
PBS NewsHour and Politico hosted the sixth debate at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles on Dec. 19, 2019. The 2.5-hour debate was the first since President Donald Trump was impeached and the last of 2019.
The goalposts for the sixth debate shifted slightly, requiring candidates to secure 200,000 unique donors and hit either 4% in four national or state polls or 6% in two early state polls to qualify.
This meant candidates needed an additional 35,000 donors compared to the last debate, and to hit 1 percentage point higher in early state or national and state polls.
PBS NewsHour's Judy Woodruff, Amna Nawaz and Yamiche Alcindor moderated the Dec. 19 debate with Politico's Tim Alberta.
The last Democratic debate stage of 2019 saw the smallest roster of candidates by far, as well as the least diverse – businessman Andrew Yang was the only person of color on stage that night, which he called "both an honor and a disappointment."
The debate also saw Pete Buttigieg's "wine cave" moment come a head, after the Associated Press published a story on Buttigieg's meeting with wealthy donors inside a California "wine cave". Elizabeth Warren, campaigning on a progressive populist platform, was quick to attack Buttigieg for selling "access to" a presidential candidate's time, despite having relied on wealthy donors for other races.
CNN and The Des Moines Register hosted the seventh debate at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, on January 14 at 9 p.m. Eastern.
This debate would be the last before the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3.
Candidates were required to have 225,000 unique donors, with at least 1,000 unique donors per state from 20 different states.
Candidates were also required to register one of two polling thresholds:
CNN's Wolf Blitzer and Abby Phillip co-hosted with Brianne Pfannenstiel of The Des Moines Register
A CNN report that dropped the day before the debate stoked tension between the two most progressive candidates of the party, claiming that Sanders told Warren he did not believe a woman can win a presidential campaign during a 2018 meeting. Sanders denied saying it during the debate; Warren doubled down.
On the foreign policy front, Biden apologized for his past support of the Iraq War during his stint as senator. He and Klobuchar stuck to traditional policy, arguing to leave a small military presence in the Middle East. Warren and Sanders said they would pull out completely, while Buttigieg and Steyer relied on their Beltway-outsider status to appeal to voters.
Read a more in-depth takeaway.
Businessman Andrew Yang met the donor requirement but scored only 5% on one national poll. Sen. Cory Booker met the donor requirement as well, but has not hit 5% in any qualifying poll.
Newcomer Michael Bloomberg qualifies on the polling front, but is not soliciting unique donors.
Former Housing Secretary Julián Castro dropped his bid for the White House on Jan. 2, after he failed to pull in enough support to make polling or fundraising requirements.
Author Marianne Williamson ended her bid on Jan. 10.
Three days later, Booker also dropped his bid for the White House on Jan. 13. He pledged to campaign for whoever recieves the party nomination.
ABC, WMUR-TV and Apple News co-hosted the eighth debate at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, Feb. 7, four days before New Hampshire's primary.
Candidates qualified for New Hampshire in one of two ways, which was a change from past debates. The first method was nearly the same as that for the Iowa debate in January, with a polling threshold and a donor threshold.
The other method depends on the official delegate count from Monday’s Iowa caucuses — which were delayed for days due to technical issues.
ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos; “World News Tonight” anchor and managing editor David Muir; and ABC News correspondent Linsey Davis.
The New Hampshire primary, which trailed the New Hampshire debate by just four days, had an elevated importance for Democrat candidates — it could very well be the first state contest to offer a clear view of the Democratic leaderboard, shaping public perceptions and campaign strategies going forward with the absence of a clear result from Iowa.
See the key takeaways.
NBC News and MSNBC partnered with The Nevada Independent to host the ninth debate in Las Vegas on Feb. 19, three days before the Nevada caucus.
The two-hour debate at the Paris Theater aired on NBC, MSNBC and Universo for Spanish-speaking audiences at 9 p.m. EST from Las Vegas’ Paris Theater.
There were two ways to qualify for the Las Vegas debate:
Have won at least one delegate from either the Iowa caucus or the New Hampshire primary.
Have scored 10 percent or higher for four national polls, or 12 percent or higher for single-state polls in Nevada and South Carolina, the next two states to host a Democratic caucus or primary.
The cutoff for the polling qualification was 11:59 p.m., EST, on Feb. 18.
"NBC Nightly News" anchor Lester Holt; "Meet the Press" moderator Chuck Todd; NBC News Chief White House Corrospondent Hallie Jackson; Noticias Telemundo senior correspondent Vanessa Hauc; The Nevada Independent's Jon Ralston.
This debate was the first for latecomer Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor who threw his hat in the ring last November. He was allowed to participate after the Democratic National Committee changed its qualification requirements on donors since Bloomberg is self-funding his campaign.
Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar and Warren had to find some way to break free from their lackluster results in the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary, where they netted six, seven and eight delegates, respectively. Pete Buttigieg and Sanders, two candidates with their own strengths in different voting concerns, could use their strong showing to make their own case for being the Democratic Party's candidate against Donald Trump.
Elizabeth Warren was praised for her strong debate performance in Nevada, while first-time presidential debater Mike Bloomberg couldn’t convincingly withstand his opponents’ frequent attacks. Warren memorably went after Bloomberg for his past use of NDAs in settling midconduct-related complaints within his company, causing him to announce later in the week that his company will allow at least three women who filed complaints to be released from the NDAs they signed and will no longer use NDAs in employee complaint negotiations.
Joe Biden turned out a relatively strong performance as well, knocking Bloomberg for his past criticism of the Affordable Care Act and dinging Sanders’ record on past immigration legislation. Biden repeatedly reminded debate viewers that he was “the only one” on the stage who has actually dealt with foreign leaders and led the charge on major pieces of legislation. Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg both had relatively strong debate performances in Nevada, often directing their attacks at one another.
Bernie Sanders performed well in the Nevada debate, despite a brief wealth-off in which Bloomberg called out the front-runner for owning more than one home, to which an obviously rankled Sanders replied that “like thousands of Vermonters,” he does have a summer house. “Forgive me for that,” he said.
CBS News and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute co-hosted the 10th Democratic debate with Twitter at The Gaillard Center in Charleston on Feb. 25, four days before the South Carolina primary.
Similar to the Feb. 19 Nevada debate, candidates qualified for the South Carolina debate either by meeting a delegate threshold (one pledged delegate to the National Democratic Convention from either Iowa, New Hampshire or Nevada) or by reaching at least 10% polling in four national or South Carolina polls.
“CBS Evening News” anchor Norah O’Donnell and “CBS This Morning” co-host Gayle King moderated the debate, joined by “Face the Nation” moderator and senior correspondent Margaret Brennan, chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett and “60 Minutes” correspondent Bill Whitaker for questioning.
Joe Biden had banked on a strong showing in South Carolina’s primary to boost his candidacy for months — the South Carolina debate stage gave him a last minute chance to distinguish his campaign as the popular choice, with pointed jabs at front-runner Bernie Sanders.
Elizabeth Warren, who was praised for her strong, cohesive performance in the Nevada debate but has been trailing in early state results, continued to target billionaire Michael Bloomberg and his record with women and women employees.
Bloomberg returned for his second, and last, debate with an attack of his own, accusing Sanders of being Russia's nominee. But he became the second most attacked on the stage that night, according to NBC News.
CNN and Univision will co-host the 11th Democratic debate on March 15, according to the Democratic National Committee. The debate is just two days before primaries in Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio. The networks are partnering with CHC Bold to host the event.
The debate was slated for the Arizona Federal Theatre in downtown Phoenix, which can hold up to 5,000 people, but rising concerns over the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus has shifted the venue to CNN's studio in Washington, D.C., instead.
With the debate being held after Super Tuesday, this time candidates will need to have had 20% of pledged delegates from states and territories that has had a primary or caucus by March 15.
See the delegates breakdown here.
Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, both of whom amassed the lion's share of pledged delegates from Nevada, South Carolina and most Super Tuesday states, are likely to be on stage for D.C. Tulsi Gabbard will most likely not qualify, having only earned two delegates from American Samoa, her birthplace.
CNN's Dana Bash and Jake Tapper will moderate with Univision's Ilia Calderón, according to the two networks. Univision's Jorge Ramos, who was originally picked to host with Bash and Tapper, was replaced by Calderón after Ramos came into proximity to someone who tested positive for the coronavirus, according to DNC spokesperson Xochitl Hinojosa.
It took 11 debates and 19 primaries and caucuses to tighten the candidate field from 20 to two — Michael Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Tom Steyer and Elizabeth Warren dropped their bid for the White House after disappointing Super Tuesday results.
The debate will likely frame the struggle between Biden restoring normalcy or Sanders making change. Biden, whose campaign relies on the nostalgia of the Obama Administration, is a foil to Sanders’ populism and focus on Medicare for All.
Expect Biden to focus on the abnormal era of the Trump Administration and his own tenure in both the Senate and the White House. Sanders is likely to focus on Medicare for All, student loans and other policies aimed to address income inequality.
The Arizona debate will be voters’ first chance to see front-runners Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders go head-to-head on stage, but they won’t be debating for a live audience. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) said it made the call not to have an in-house audience “at the request of both campaigns and out of an abundance of caution.”
Debate broadcaster CNN said it is also canceling plans for a media filing center and “spin room,” where campaign surrogates are available for interviews. Instead, journalists covering the debate will have to watch it on television.
Mounting concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus led to last-minute changes of plans for the upcoming DNC presidential primary debate as well, including a cross-country relocation from Phoenix to CNN's studios in Washington, D.C., on March 12. Univision had to swap out their hosts as well, after Jorge Ramos came into contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus.
Details to be announced.
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The DNC has said it will have at least one woman and one moderator of color at each Democratic presidential debate.
"The DNC is committed to an inclusive and fair debate process," DNC senior adviser Mary Beth Cahill told Refinery29, which first reported the debates would have at least one woman moderator. "That means that all 12 DNC sanctioned debates will feature a diverse group of moderators and panelists including women and people of color, ensuring that the conversations reflect the concerns of all Americans."
HuffPost later reported that the debates will also include at least one person of color as a moderator, who could also be the same person as the woman moderator.