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Democratic debate 2015: start time, schedule, and what to expect

Andrew Prokop is a senior politics correspondent at Vox, covering the White House, elections, and political scandals and investigations. He’s worked at Vox since the site’s launch in 2014, and before that, he worked as a research assistant at the New Yorker’s Washington, DC, bureau.

The horrific attacks in Paris will loom large over tonight's Democratic debate, which is scheduled for 9 pm Eastern and will take place as planned. (It will be livestreamed on for free).

After news of the attacks broke last night, the CBS News team decided to heavily rework its planned questions so they'd be directly related, the New York Times' Emily Steel reports. "There is no question that the emphasis changes dramatically," CBS News executive editor Steve Capus told Steel.

So far this year, the Democratic race has focused overwhelmingly on domestic issues — with Hillary Clinton trying to demonstrate her progressive credentials, Bernie Sanders critiquing the power of the wealthy, and Martin O'Malley trying to prove he's the most liberal candidate who can win.

For tonight, at least, that looks likely to change.

What to expect at the CBS Democratic debate: lots of discussion of Paris

Information on the Paris attackers' identities and motivations is still scant — but reports increasingly indicate a connection to ISIS.

So, the moderators will likely ask questions on several related topics. First, there's the crisis and civil war in Syria — could anything have been done to stop it, and what should be done now? Then, there's the rise of ISIS — why did it happen and what should be done about it? Finally, several Republican candidates have already said that the US shouldn't accept Syrian refugees, so the Democrats will likely be asked about this too. (Clinton and O'Malley have previously called for accepting 65,000 refugees, while Sanders wouldn't commit to a particular number back in September.)

In the past, Clinton has partly blamed the rise of ISIS on Obama's failure to arm more moderate Syrian rebels in time. And overall, she has more hawkish instincts and policy views than Sanders and O'Malley. She's generally downplayed these in the primary, which is dominated by progressives, but might be more straightforward in the wake of these brutal attacks. At the very least, expect her to play up her experience as Secretary of State.

As for Sanders — while he's cheered progressives with his domestic policy proposals, his views on foreign affairs are surprisingly mainstream, as Zack Beauchamp wrote. He is to Clinton's left because he's more skeptical of large scale US military commitments — but he's been very supportive of the administration's bombing campaign against ISIS.

Martin O'Malley's views on foreign policy are less well-known, but he gave a June speech in which he argued that "in confronting ISIS, we must avoid mission creep — and be mindful that American boots on the ground can be counter-productive to our desired outcome."

How to watch

When: 9 pm Saturday

Where: Drake University, Des Moines


Online: At, a free live stream will be available.

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