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What April’s Democratic debate might look like — if it happens

Almost everything about the April Democratic debate is still up in the air.

Senator Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden stand onstage behind podiums with their arms raised.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, left, and former Vice President Joe Biden on stage at the 10th Democratic debate in Charleston, South Carolina, on February 25.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders met in Washington, DC, on Sunday for the 11th debate of the Democratic presidential primary. It was the first one-on-one debate of the cycle — and it might also be the last.

The Democratic National Committee framework for the 2020 debates does call for 12 debates, with the last one in April. But even setting aside that everything from the NBA to Broadway has been canceled in March due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, it’s unclear whether that 12th debate will actually take place.

For one, it’s not unreasonable to assume the race will be all but locked up by April. There’s one more major day of voting to come in March — Arizona, Florida, Illinois, and Ohio all vote Tuesday, March 17 — and it’s expected to go extremely well for Biden. If it does, it could be nearly impossible for Sanders to overcome his delegate lead.

For another, we have no details on the 12th debate yet — nothing on the host, the location, the time, or anything else. And the DNC emphasized when they published the debate framework in December 2018 that it was flexible:

Given the fluid nature of the presidential nominating process, the DNC will continuously assess the state of the race and make adjustments to this process as appropriate, and always transparently.

If a debate does go ahead, however, you can expect it to look similar to Sunday’s: Only two candidates, no live audience, and the podiums at least six feet apart in the interest of “social distancing” as the coronavirus outbreak continues to wrack the US and the world.

Unless either candidate exits the race soon, though, we’ll just have to wait and see what the DNC says about an April debate.

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