2020 Democratic Party presidential debates and forums

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The 2020 Democratic Party presidential debates will occur among candidates in the campaign for the Democratic Party's nomination for the president of the United States in the 2020 presidential election.

Several forums, in which candidates do not respond directly to each other, have taken place.

Debates[edit]

Map of United States showing sites of all Democratic presidential debates (D1-D12) in 2019-2020.
D2 Detroit
D2
Detroit
Sites of the twelve Democratic presidential debates (D1–D12) in 2019–20

Schedule[edit]

In December 2018, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) announced the preliminary schedule for 12 official DNC-sanctioned debates, set to begin in June 2019, with six debates in 2019 and the remaining six during the first four months of 2020. Candidates are allowed to participate in forums featuring multiple other candidates as long as only one candidate appears on stage at a time; if a candidate participates in any unsanctioned debate with other presidential candidates, he or she will lose their invitation to the next DNC-sanctioned debate.[1][2]

If any debates will be scheduled to take place with a location in the first four primary/caucus states (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina), the DNC has decided such debates, at the earliest, will be held in 2020.[1] The DNC also announced that it would not partner with Fox News as a media sponsor for any debates.[3][4] Fox News had last held a Democratic debate in 2003.[5] All media sponsors selected to host a debate will as a new rule be required to appoint at least one female moderator for each debate, to ensure there will not be a gender skewed treatment of the candidates and debate topics.[6]

Debate schedule
No. Date Time
(ET)
Viewers
(million)
Place Sponsor(s) Moderator(s) Ref(s)
1A Jun 26, 2019 9–11 pm TBA Arsht Center
Miami, Florida
NBC News
MSNBC
Telemundo
Jose Diaz-Balart
Savannah Guthrie
Lester Holt
Rachel Maddow
Chuck Todd
[7][8]
1B Jun 27, 2019 9–11 pm TBA
2A Jul 30, 2019 TBA TBA Fox Theatre
Detroit, Michigan
CNN TBA [9][10]
2B Jul 31, 2019 TBA TBA
3A Sep 12, 2019 TBA TBA TBA ABC News
Univision
TBA [11]
3B* Sep 13, 2019* TBA* TBA*
4 Oct 2019 TBA [1]
5 Nov 2019
6 Dec 2019
7 Jan–Apr 2020
8
9
10
11
12

* Debate 3B might be cancelled if fewer candidates qualify for the third debate.[12][13]


Participating candidates in the DNC-sanctioned debates
Candidate
 P  Present  A  Absent  I  Invited  O  Invited to other debate  N  Not invited  OR  Out of race
1A 1B 2A 2B 3A 3B 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Bennet O I
Biden O I
Booker I O
Bullock N
Buttigieg O I
Castro I O
de Blasio I O
Delaney I O
Gabbard I O
Gillibrand O I
Gravel N
Harris O I
Hickenlooper O I
Inslee I O
Klobuchar I O
Messam N
Moulton N
O'Rourke I O
Ryan I O
Sanders O I
Sestak OR
Swalwell O I
Warren I O
Williamson O I
Yang O I
Ref(s) [14][15]

Qualification of candidates[edit]

First and second debates[edit]

In order to qualify for the first and second debates, debate entrants must at minimum comply with one of the two below listed criteria (and if this test results in more than 20 qualified candidates, the two criteria will be evaluated in combination as per the outlined tiebreaking rules):[16]

  • Polling criterion: Attain at least 1% support in minimum 3 approved polls for either the national level or the first four primary/caucus states (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina). The polling threshold will be determined using only the published top-line result (whether or not it is a rounded or weighted number) of polls published after January 1, 2019 up until 14 days before the scheduled debate, with each candidate only being able to count one poll by the same pollster within each region towards the requirement. For a poll to be considered it must not be based on open-ended questions,[17] and also needs to have been commissioned or conducted by this limited set of organizations: the Associated Press, ABC News, CBS News, CNN, The Des Moines Register, Fox News, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Monmouth University, NBC News, The New York Times, National Public Radio, Quinnipiac University, Reuters, the University of New Hampshire, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Winthrop University.
  • Fundraising criterion: Meet a fundraising threshold, in which a candidate must receive donations from a minimum of 65,000 unique donors, with at least 200 unique donors per state in at least 20 states. Candidates who wish to qualify using the fundraising threshold must present evidence to the DNC of their eligibility using donor data collected by ActBlue or NGP VAN.
  • Tiebreaking rules (limiting the number of qualified candidates to 20):
    • (1) Candidates meeting both criteria will have primacy over those who only met one criterion. If more than 20 candidates met both criteria, only the top 20 candidates with the highest polling averages will be invited. The polling averages for candidates will be calculated as the average of their three best results in any qualifying polls, rounded to the nearest tenth. Should multiple candidates still be tied for the 20th spot in the debates, the candidates will be further ranked by the number of approved polls in which each candidate received at least 1% support. The percentages used will be the "top-line number listed in the original public release from the approved sponsoring organization/institution, whether or not it is a rounded or weighted number".
    • (2) If more than 20 candidates qualify by either criterion but fewer than 20 candidates qualified on the basis of both criteria and more than 20 met the polling criterion, then: All candidates who meet both criteria will be invited, with the rest of the available slots awarded to the remaining candidates who only met the polling criterion, with priority given to those with the highest polling averages - and in case of equal polling averages they will be further ranked by the number of approved polls in which each candidate received at least 1% support (as calculated per the method described under rule 1).
    • (3) If more than 20 candidates qualify by either criterion but fewer than 20 candidates qualified on the basis of both criteria and fewer than 20 met the polling criterion, then: All candidates who met both criteria and all candidates who only met the polling criterion will be invited, with the rest of the available slots awarded to the remaining candidates who only met the fundraising criterion, with priority given to those with the highest number of unique donors.

The deadline for candidates to meet either of the above criteria is June 12 for the first debate,[18][19] and July 16 for the second debate.[20][21]

Each of the first two debates will take place during two consecutive nights, with a maximum of 10 candidates per night. The DNC will, at a public event before each debate, draw lots among the qualified candidates to determine whether they shall debate on the first or second night.[22][23] The drawing of lots will happen from two tier groups (with the top tier comprising all qualified candidates with a polling average of minimum 2%, and the other tier comprising the rest), so that each tier will be evenly split between each of the two debate nights. This drawing procedure was designed to avoid the appearance of a "kiddie table" debate, which took place during the 2016 Republican Party presidential debates.[24]



Qualified candidates for the second debate[25][26][27][28][29]
(as of June 18)
Candidate Met donor criterion
(3rd tiebreak priority)
Met polling criterion
(2nd tiebreak priority)[30]
Met both criteria
(1st tiebreak priority)
Additional
Ref(s)
Biden Yes
(on April 26)
Yes
(37.7%, 23 polls)
Yes [31]
Sanders Yes
(before April 1)
Yes
(26.7%, 23 polls)
Yes [32]
Warren Yes
(before April 1)
Yes
(16.3%, 23 polls)
Yes [32]
Buttigieg Yes
(before April 1)
Yes
(13.0%, 21 polls)
Yes [32]
Harris Yes
(before April 1)
Yes
(11.0%, 23 polls)
Yes [32]
O'Rourke Yes
(on March 15)
Yes
(10.3%, 23 polls)
Yes [33]
Booker Yes
(on May 4)
Yes
(4.0%, 23 polls)
Yes [34]
Klobuchar Yes
(before April 1)
Yes
(3.7%, 23 polls)
Yes [35]
Castro Yes
(on May 3)
Yes
(2.0%, 16 polls)
Yes [36]
Yang Yes
(on March 11)
Yes
(1.7%, 18 polls)
Yes [37]
Gabbard Yes
(on April 11)
Yes
(1.3%, 11 polls)
Yes [38]
Gillibrand Yes
(on June 10)
Yes
(1.3%, 10 polls)
Yes [39]
Inslee Yes
(on May 24)
Yes
(1.0%, 09 polls)
Yes [40]
Williamson Yes
(on May 9)
Yes
(1.0%, 04 polls)
Yes [41][42]
Hickenlooper Pending Yes
(1.3%, 09 polls)
Pending
Ryan Pending Yes
(1.3%, 09 polls)
Pending
de Blasio Pending Yes
(1.0%, 06 polls)
Pending [43][44][17]
Delaney Pending Yes
(1.0%, 05 polls)
Pending
Bennet Pending Yes
(1.0%, 04 polls)
Pending [45]
Bullock Pending Yes
(1.0%, 3 polls)
Pending [46][17][50]
Swalwell Pending Yes
(1.0%, 03 polls)
Pending
Messam Pending Pending
(2 polls at ≥1%)
Pending [50]
Gravel Pending
(~47,500 donors on June 14)
Pending
(1 poll at ≥1%)
Pending [47][48][50]
Moulton Pending Pending
(0 polls at ≥1%)
Pending [49]
Sestak Pending Pending
(0 polls at ≥1%)
Pending

Third and fourth debates[edit]

For participation in the third and fourth debates, candidates will be required to meet both a raised polling criterion and a raised fundraising criterion. In contrast to the first debate, there will not be a maximum number of candidates who can qualify (decided by tiebreak rules), so candidates meeting both criteria will be guaranteed participation:

  • Polling criterion: A candidate needs to get at least two percent support in four different polls published from a list of approved pollsters during June 28 to August 28, which cannot be based on open-ended questions and may cover either the national level or one of the first four primary/caucus states (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina). Only one poll from each approved pollster will count towards meeting the criterion in each region. In contrast to the first two debates, polls published/sponsored by the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Reuters will no longer count towards meeting the criterion.
  • Fundraising criterion: Before the deadline, 11:59 pm on August 28, a candidate needs to receive financial support from a minimum of 130,000 unique donors, with at least 400 unique donors per state in at least 20 states.

The above criteria will also apply for the fourth October debate, except that the end of the polling period and the deadline for measuring fundraising will be extended to a later date that has yet to be specified.[13]

Qualified candidates for the third debate
(as of June 25)
Candidate Met donor criterion
Met polling criterion
Met both criteria
Additional
Ref(s)
Bennet Pending[51] N/A N/A
Biden Yes
(before June 18)
N/A N/A [52]
Booker Pending
(85,000 donors on June 25)
N/A N/A [53]
Bullock Pending[51] N/A N/A
Buttigieg Yes
(before June 14)
N/A N/A [51]
Castro Pending
(65,000 donors on May 3)
N/A N/A [36]
de Blasio Pending[51] N/A N/A
Delaney Pending[51] N/A N/A
Gabbard Pending
(81,455 donors on June 24)
N/A N/A [54]
Gillibrand Pending
(65,000 donors on June 10)
N/A N/A [39]
Gravel Pending
(~47,500 donors on June 14)
N/A N/A [51]
Harris Yes
(before June 14)
N/A N/A [51]
Hickenlooper Pending[51] N/A N/A
Inslee Pending
(65,000 donors on May 24)
N/A N/A [40]
Klobuchar Pending
(65,000 donors before April 1)
N/A N/A [35]
Messam Pending[51] N/A N/A
Moulton Pending[51] N/A N/A
O'Rourke Yes
(before June 17)
N/A N/A [55]
Ryan Pending[51] N/A N/A
Sanders Yes
(before June 14)
N/A N/A [51]
Sestak Pending N/A N/A
Swalwell Pending[51] N/A N/A
Warren Yes
(before June 14)
N/A N/A [51]
Williamson Pending
(65,000 donors on May 9)
N/A N/A [41][42]
Yang Pending
(122,000 donors on June 6)
N/A N/A [56]

Debate summaries[edit]

First debate in Florida (June 2019)[edit]

The DNC drew lots among the 20 qualified candidates for the first debate to determine whether they should debate on the first night (June 26) or second night (June 27) at the NBC News headquarters (30 Rockefeller Plaza) in New York City on June 14. The qualified candidates or their representatives were present and involved at the drawing event.[57] The drawing event was not televised.[58]

Candidates
drawn for the
June 26 debate
Polling
criterion
result[30]
Warren* 16.3% (23 polls)
O'Rourke* 10.3% (23 polls)
Booker* 4.0% (23 polls)
Klobuchar* 3.7% (23 polls)
Castro* 2.0% (16 polls)
Gabbard 1.3% (11 polls)
Ryan 1.3% (9 polls)
Inslee 1.0% (9 polls)
de Blasio 1.0% (6 polls)
Delaney 1.0% (5 polls)
Candidates
drawn for the
June 27 debate
Polling
criterion
result[30]
Biden* 37.7% (23 polls)
Sanders* 26.7% (23 polls)
Buttigieg* 13.0% (21 polls)
Harris* 11.0% (23 polls)
Yang 1.7% (18 polls)
Gillibrand 1.3% (10 polls)
Hickenlooper 1.3% (9 polls)
Williamson 1.0%, (4 polls)
Bennet 1.0% (4 polls)
Swalwell 1.0% (3 polls)

* First tier candidates: The drawing of lots happened from two tier groups (with the top tier comprising all qualified candidates with a polling average of over 2%, and the other tier comprising the rest), so that each tier was evenly split between each of the two debate nights.[57]

Controversies[edit]

Climate change debate[edit]

Jay Inslee proposed that the DNC dedicate one of its presidential debates to climate change,[59] giving candidates a chance to elaborate in full detail on how they intend to implement climate action and achieve the goals presented by the Green New Deal (a progressive climate resolution proposed by Democratic congressmen in the House).[60] Recent polls of both Democratic voters and the electorate in general had identified this topic to be of the highest importance (i.e. a CNN poll[61] found 80% of Democrats wanted presidential candidates to make climate change a top priority, and a Morning Consult poll[62] of registered voters nationwide found that 63% said it’s either important or a top priority for Congress to pass a bill to address climate change). Despite support from seven other candidates (Sanders, Warren, Gillibrand, Castro, Bennet, Delaney[63] and Moulton[64]), several progressive and environmental groups (Sierra Club, CREDO Action, Sunrise Movement, Friends of the Earth Action, Public Citizen, 350 Action, MoveOn, Youth Climate Strike), at least two dozen Democratic lawmakers from the House/Senate,[60] and over 52,000 signatories of a petition,[65] the DNC turned down the idea of limiting some of their debates to only one debate topic.[66][2]

Bullock qualification for the first debate[edit]

As per both the official qualification rules published and updated by the DNC respectively on February 14 and May 9,[16] and the rule guidance provided for by the Polling Method Certification Form promulgated by DNC on June 10/11,[21] there did not exist, as at June 12, any public official release of a recently claimed additional rule, that "polls based on open-ended questions will not be considered". This additional rule was initially just orally communicated between DNC chairman Tom Perez and the Bullock campaign in March 2019, and was only publicly confirmed via a statement to a Politico reporter on June 6,[17] but was never confirmed in writing by any primary DNC sources ahead of the qualification deadline.[67] Hence, the Bullock campaign wrote a certification letter to DNC on June 12, claiming that Bulllock qualified for participation in the first debate through the polling criteria (as they believed an open-ended poll from ABC News/Washington Post should be counted as a third qualifying poll - as per the official published rules).[68] Had Bullock been ultimately determined to have qualified by the DNC, then 21 total candidates would have qualified by the polling criteria, which would have triggered use of the tiebreak rules, leading to Bullock and Swalwell being tied equally for the last 20th spot with 1.0% as highest polling average and 3 polls with a result at minimum 1%. In that scenario, the DNC would either have had to accept inviting 21 candidates, or invent a supplementing final tiebreak rule (i.e. drawing lots for the last spot, or deciding the further tie by their number of unique donors).[67] Ultimately, Bullock was determined not to have qualified for the first debate[14], though he qualified for the second debate.[50]

Forums[edit]

In addition to the party-sponsored debates, several private organizations are hosting forums focusing on select issues and candidates.

  Past forums
Name Issues Date Place Sponsors Ref
Heartland Forum Economic issues affecting rural Americans March 30, 2019 Buena Vista University,
Storm Lake, Iowa
Open Markets Institute Action
HuffPost
Storm Lake Times
Iowa Farmers Union
[69][70]
We the People Membership Summit Democracy reform April 1, 2019 Warner Theatre,
Washington, D.C.
Center for Popular Democracy Action
Communications Workers of America
Planned Parenthood Action Fund
Service Employees International Union[
SEIU 32BJ
Sierra Club
[71][72]
She the People Presidential Forum Issues affecting women of color April 24, 2019 Texas Southern University,
Houston, Texas
She the People [73][74]
National Forum on Wages and Working People: Creating an Economy that Works for All Economic issues affecting low-income Americans April 27, 2019 Enclave,
Las Vegas, Nevada
Service Employees International Union
Center for American Progress Action Fund
[75][76]
Unity and Freedom Forum Immigration reform and issues affecting Hispanic and Latino Americans May 31, 2019 Hilton Pasadena,
Pasadena, California
FIRM Action
Community Change Action
CHIRLA Action Fund
[77][78]
Big Ideas Forum One idea that can inspire voters and transform the country June 1, 2019 Warfield Theatre,
San Francisco, California
MoveOn [79][80]
Presidential Candidates Forum Expanding economic opportunity for Black Americans June 15, 2019[note 1] Charleston Music Hall,
Charleston, South Carolina
Black Economic Alliance [82][81][83]
Poor People's Campaign Presidential Forum Issues affecting low-income Americans June 17, 2019 Trinity Washington University,
Washington, D.C.
Poor People's Campaign [84][85]
NALEO Presidential Candidate Forum Issues affecting Hispanic and Latino Americans June 21, 2019 Telemundo Center,
Miami, Florida
NALEO [86][87]
We Decide: 2020 Election Membership Forum Abortion, reproductive health care, and contraception June 22, 2019 University of South Carolina,
Columbia, South Carolina
Planned Parenthood Action Fund [88][89]
Strong Public Schools Forum Issues affecting students, educators, and neighborhood public schools July 5, 2019 Houston, Texas National Education Association [90][91]
Asian American Pacific Islanders Progressive Democratic Presidential Forum Issues affecting Asian Pacific Americans September 8, 2019 Orange County, California AAPI Victory Fund
Asian Americans Rising
[92][93]
N/A LGBT rights October 10, 2019 University of California, Los Angeles,
Los Angeles, California
Human Rights Campaign
University of California, Los Angeles
[94]

Forum participation[edit]

Candidate
 P  Present  A  Absent  I  Plans to attend  N  Plans to not attend  O  Out of race
Heart-
land
We
the
Peo-
ple
She
the
Peo-
ple
Wa-
ges
&
Work-
ing
Peo-
ple
Uni-
ty
&
Free-
dom
Big
Ideas
Black
Eco-
nomic
Al-
lian-
ce
Poor
Peo-
ple's
Mo-
ral
Ac-
tion
NA-
LEO
We
De-
cide
Str-
ong
Pub-
lic
Sch-
ools
AAPI
Pro-
gres-
sive
Demo-
crats
Hu-
man
Righ-
ts
Cam-
pai-
gn
Bennet O O O O A A A P A P
Biden O O O A A A A P A P
Booker A P P A A P P A A P
Bullock O O O O A A A A A A
Buttigieg O O A A A A P A P P
Castro P P P P P P A A P P I
de Blasio O O O O A A A A A P
Delaney P A A A A A A A A P
Gabbard A A P A A A A A A A
Gillibrand A P A A A P A A A P
Gravel O O A A A A A A A A
Harris A A P P P P A P A P I
Hickenlooper A A A P A A A A P P
Inslee A P A A P A A A A P I
Klobuchar P P P P A P A A P P I
Messam A A A A A A A P A A
Moulton O O A A A A A A A P
O'Rourke A P P P A P P A P P I
Ryan P[95] O A A A A A A A P
Sanders A P P A P P A P P P I
Sestak O O O O O O O O O O
Swalwell O O A A A A A P P P
Warren P P P P A P P P P P I
Williamson A A A A A A A P A P
Yang A A A A A A A P A P

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Air date: 10:00 A.M. ET/9:00 A.M. CT June 16, 2019 on BET.[81]

References[edit]

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