The ninth Democratic presidential debate of the 2020 election cycle takes place Wednesday night with Bernie Sanders the clear frontrunner and Mike Bloomberg taking the stage for the first time.
Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont, has surged out nationally in front of former Vice President Joe Biden after the party’s first two contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, according to a RealClearPolitics average of polls. But also picking up support nationally is Bloomberg, the billionaire businessman and former New York City mayor, who will make his first appearance on the debate stage.
Bloomberg was able to qualify for tonight’s debate thanks to the Democratic National Committee’s decision to change its rules for candidates, eliminating the need to garner a specific number of campaign contributions to quality. Bloomberg, who is worth an estimated $60 billion, has made it a point not to take campaign donations.
Other participants tonight include former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg, who currently holds a slim lead over Sanders in delegates, and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who is trying to capitalize on her strong finish in New Hampshire. Like Biden, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren will hope to turn around a faltering campaign after disappointing losses in the previous two contests.
Here’s everything you need to know to watch or stream Wednesday’s Democratic presidential debate:
Wednesday’s Democratic debate, the ninth of the 2020 election cycle, is scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. Eastern and last about two hours. It’s cohosted by NBC News and the Nevada Independent, and will air live on NBC10 and MSNBC in Philadelphia.
Six candidates qualified for the debate. They are (in alphabetical order):
Tonight’s debate will trade out one billionaire for another.
Steyer, the wealthy hedge fund manager turned philanthropist, has been on the debate stage since October. But this time around, Steyer didn’t qualify, after failing to win any pledged delegates or surpass the DNC’s polling requirements.
Despite his absence Wednesday, Steyer still can quality for the next Democratic debate on Feb. 25 in South Carolina. To do so, he’ll either have to win a few delegates in the Nevada caucus or hit 10 percent in four national polls approved by the Democratic National Committee (or 12 percent in two South Carolina-specific polls) released between Feb. 4 and Feb. 24.
Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard also failed to quality for Wednesday debate. Despite her low finish in New Hampshire’s primary, Gabbard said as recently as last week that she hasn’t discussed dropping out of race with her campaign staff.
The New Hampshire primary proved the be the last stop for three long-shot Democratic presidential campaigns.
Entrepreneur Andrew Yang, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick all ended their campaigns after failing to garner much support.
Yang, who entered the race with no previous political experience, developed something of a following thanks to his passionate support of a universal basic income. Unlike Bennet and Patrick, Yang qualified for all but one of the Democrat’s previous eight debates, and his campaign managed to raise more than $30 million — a surprisingly large sum for an outsider with no name recognition.
But Yang isn’t going far. On Wednesday, CNN announced it hired Yang as a political commentator, and he will make his debut on the network tonight ahead of the debate.
“Maybe I’ll wear a tie,” Yang joked on Twitter.
Yang’s role on CNN might be short lived. Last week, he suggested in an interview with the New York Times that a run for mayor in New York City in 2021 was a possibility.
“Certainly people have been reaching out with various questions about the future, which is invigorating. We’re looking at different ways forward,” Yang said.
Wednesday’s debate will feature five moderators:
Candidates need 1,991 delegates to secure the Democratic presidential nomination. After two contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, here’s where things stand:
- Pete Buttigieg: 22 delegates
- Bernie Sanders: 21 delegates
- Elizabeth Warren: 8 delegates
- Amy Klobuchar: 7 delegates
- Joe Biden: 6 delegates
The DNC has approved as many as 12 debates, though there may be fewer, depending on how the primary process plays out. Wednesday’s debate will be the third of 2020, with two more scheduled over the next month: Tuesday, Feb. 25 in South Carolina, and Sunday, March 15 in Arizona.
To qualify for the Feb. 25 debate, there is no donor requirement, but candidates must reach at least one of two polling requirements in polls released between Feb. 4 and Feb. 24:
Candidates can also qualify by earning at least one pledged delegate in either the Iowa caucuses, New Hampshire primary, or the Nevada caucuses. So far, five candidates have already qualified for the Feb. 25 debate, according to the New York Times: Biden, Sanders Warren, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar.