The first debates of the 2020 Democratic presidential race are here.
Ten candidates will participate tonight beginning at 9:00 pm ET.
And the second 10 — led by Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg — go on Thursday.
Slated for tonight: Cory Booker, Bill de Blasio, Julián Castro, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Jay Inslee, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Tim Ryan, and Elizabeth Warren.
The 10 Democratic candidates in this debate will have 60 seconds to answer questions and 30 seconds for rebuttals. There will be no opening statements, and each candidate will give a one-minute closing statement. The debate will be broken up into five segments with four commercial breaks.
Lester Holt of NBC News is the moderator. He will be joined in the first hour by Savannah Guthrie of the “Today” show and José Díaz-Balart of Telemundo. Chuck Todd of “Meet the Press” and Rachel Maddow of MSNBC will appear in the second hour.
By all accounts, it is Warren’s night. She is far ahead in the polls compared to everyone else on the stage.
Here’s what I’m watching for tonight:
- How does Warren handle being the night’s frontrunner? The Massachusetts senator has been moving up in the polls. And without Biden or Bernie on the stage, she’s the star attraction — at least on paper. Maybe Warren’s biggest task is handling the high expectations.
- Who else breaks through – Beto, Booker or Klobuchar? Since Biden-versus-Bernie is Night Two, at least one of the other candidates will shine. Will it be O’Rourke, who has seen his star fade since his entry in March? Or Booker, who really hasn’t had a moment so far in the 2020 race? Or Klobuchar, who often stands out when she’s on TV.
- Who else has a moment? There are six other candidates on tonight’s debate stage: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, former Rep. John Delaney, Reps. Tulsi Gabbard and Tim Ryan, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Remember, these folks are vying to survive the higher qualifications before September’s third debate(s).
- How long does coverage of Night One last? The biggest disadvantage of going on the first night is that the coverage has a potential shelf life of 24 hours — before the second debate begins. So even if you stand out, does that get overshadowed starting at 9:00 pm ET on Thursday, when Biden, Bernie, Harris and Buttigieg take the stage?