'A 10-Person Debate Is a Mess'

20 Democratic candidates have been split over 2 nights, starting tonight
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 26, 2019 8:49 AM CDT
Get Ready for 'Cacophony' at Dems' 10-Person Debate
Cars pass by a billboard advertising the Democratic Presidential Debates across from the Knight Concert Hall at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, Tuesday, June 25, 2019, in Miami.   (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

With 20 candidates vying for attention—a number more suited to wrestling's Royal Rumble than a traditional debate—Democrats have split the field into two groups for debates in Miami on Wednesday and Thursday nights. Republicans who took part in their party's 10 and 11-person 2016 debates, however, say Democrats could still find it a struggle. "A 10-person debate is a mess," Sen. Ted Cruz tells the New York Times. "It’s a cacophony." Chris Christie adds: "With 10 people on the stage, you know, you’ll get seven to nine minutes, usually, of time to talk. So it’s very difficult to break through." More:

  • No "undercard." NPR, which profiles all 20 candidates, reports that the Democratic National Committee and NBC wanted to avoid the "undercard" debates that the GOP had for low-polling candidates. Instead, they divided them into those polling above 2% and below 2%, then split them evenly between the two nights through random drawing.

  • The moderators. NBC, which will air the debates starting at 9pm Eastern, says it will have the same five moderators both nights: Lester Holt, Savannah Guthrie, Chuck Todd, Rachel Maddow, and Jose Diaz-Balart.
  • The candidates. Wednesday night's debate will feature Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O'Rourke, Julian Castro, Jay Inslee, Bill de Blasio, Tim Ryan, John Delaney, and Tulsi Gabbard.
  • The frontrunners. Warren is the only one of the candidates who is polling in the top five. The other four—Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, and Kamala Harris—will be onstage Thursday.
  • The format. Don't expect many long-winded speeches: Wired reports that each candidate will get 60 seconds to answer questions and 30 seconds for follow-ups. They will also be allowed to make closing remarks, but not opening ones.
  • The issues. The Washington Post predicts that there will be broad agreement on issues like health care and climate change—but it could get messy when it comes to more controversial questions like socialism, how civil to be to Republicans, how best to defeat President Trump, and whether frontrunner Joe Biden is out of touch.
(Read more Democratic debate stories.)

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