Democratic Debates to Refine Overwhelming Field before Primaries

The first Democratic debate is limited to 20 candidates. Thus far 19 have qualified. Each candidate has two paths to inclusion in the upcoming debate. Any candidate who has at least 65,000 individual donors and a minimum of 200 donors across 20 States will make the cut. Alternatively, any candidate who receives one percentage point of support or more in at least three national polls will be included.

Due to the cluster of candidates polling at similar rates of relative obscurity, those who qualify will be split at random between two debates. This is a change from the 2016 Republican debate format, in which the highest-polling candidates were set to debate in primetime, while the lower-polling candidates debated earlier in the evening or afternoon. The DNC is likely hoping to avoid some of the problems that the Republicans 2016 format caused; the lower-tier debates suffered significantly lower ratings and were sometimes referred to as the “kids table” or “junior varsity” by pundits.

Future debates take place on July 30 and 31, and yet-to-be-chosen dates in September, October and November. While few details are known about the Autumn debates, we can expect the qualifications to become increasingly strict, resulting in fewer candidates in each subsequent debate. This strategy will pare down the expansive list of candidates, making the field more manageable leading up to the Iowa Caucuses on February 3, 2020. Primaries will run from February through June 2020. The Democratic party will nominate their chosen candidate at the Democratic National Convention next July 13 – 16 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Until this point, much of the analysis surrounding the Democratic candidates has centered on their fundraising, national polling, and personality. Now, the American people will begin to judge the Democratic field by their ideas, verbal sparring ability, gravitas, and ultimately, their readiness to go toe-to-toe with President Donald Trump.