We now know which Democratic presidential candidates will actually share the stage at their two-night first debate later this month.
NBC determined which group of candidates would be onstage on which night, and here’s how they’ll be arranged, according to the network:
Wednesday, June 26, the first night, will feature Bill de Blasio, Tim Ryan, Julián Castro, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar, Tulsi Gabbard, Jay Inslee, and John Delaney.
Thursday, June 27, the second night, will feature Marianne Williamson, John Hickenlooper, Andrew Yang, Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Michael Bennet, and Eric Swalwell.
The event will take place from 9 to 11 pm Eastern time each night and will air on NBC, MSNBC, and Telemundo.
The selections were made via two random drawings. Candidates were separated into those polling at 2 percent or above, and those who were below that level.
The debate hosts ensured each group would be split equally among the two nights, and then held a random drawing within each group of candidates, rather than a totally random pick among the full pool of 20 qualifiers.
This method was designed to ensure there was no “kids’ table” debate with only the poorly polling candidates. Still, in the end, four of the five top-polling candidates — Biden, Sanders, Harris, and Buttigieg — ended up onstage together. The fifth, Warren, was sorted with O’Rourke, Booker, and Klobuchar, who haven’t been polling as strongly.
It’s not clear whether this is good or bad for Warren, who has had a bit of a bump in some polls lately. She is clearly the top-tier candidate in her group, so she has a good opportunity to stand out on that first night. But she will lose the chance to challenge leading candidates like Biden or Sanders face to face — this time around.
The first debate night
The very first night of the first debate of the 2020 cycle will likely star Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
After a rocky start to her campaign, Warren has risen to third place on average in national polls, and has even passed Sanders to go into second (behind Biden) in a few. In other words, she’s having a bit of a moment.
So the big question was whether Warren would get a chance to take on Sanders or Biden onstage. But due to the luck of the draw, she’ll be paired with neither.
Instead, the most prominent candidates joining Warren will be former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. These three have all been viewed as promising candidates, but their campaigns haven’t caught on so far.
Also onstage will be several less-known candidates trying to break out of the pack:
- Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro
- Washington Gov. Jay Inslee
- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio
- Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard
- Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan
- Former Maryland Rep. John Delaney
The second debate night
Then, four of the five top-polling Democratic candidates will appear together on the debate’s second night — along with some lesser-known candidates.
Former vice president Joe Biden continues to consistently lead polls, and many Democrats are curious to see how he will perform on the debate stage. Meanwhile, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the 2016 runner-up, has been in second — and has a very different vision for the Democratic Party’s future. California Sen. Kamala Harris and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg round out the top tier in polling so far.
Joining them onstage will be:
- Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet
- Former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper
- New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
- California Rep. Eric Swalwell
Finally, both of the candidates with no elected office — author and activist Marianne Williamson, and entrepreneur Andrew Yang — both ended up being placed on this night as well.