debate stage

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has released the lists of who will be on each Democratic debate stage each night. While the list provided several surprises, the biggest one is that the two candidates who most rival each other in polls — Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and former Vice President Joe Biden — will be on the same debate stage.

New York Times reporter Reid Epstein tweeted the list of both sets of names on Friday, noting that NBC — the network hosting the initial debate — will ultimately decide which set of candidates will appear the first night (June 26), and which slate of names will debate on the second night (June 27). The first slate of names features just one major candidate polling near the top of major polls in Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts). She joins mostly second-tier candidates like Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), former Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Juli├ín┬áCastro.

However, the second slate of names is packed with powerhouses. While both Biden and Sanders will be onstage, they’ll also be joined by Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) and South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg, who are all considered top-tier candidates in polls. Others on the second list include basic income advocate Andrew Yang, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York).

Sen. Warren’s exclusion from the debate featuring higher-profile candidates was criticized widely on Twitter. Media Matters‘ Parker Malloy wrote that the Massachusetts senator “got put at the kids table,” and proposed an alternative lineup in which top-tier candidates (like Biden, Buttigieg, Harris, Sanders, and Warren) would all be on the same stage, while bottom-tier candidates polling much lower are on a separate stage.

The decision to split the debate over two nights was due to the fact that 20 Democratic presidential candidates met the DNC’s threshold to qualify for the first debates by having at least 65,000 individual campaign donors, with 200 each from at least 20 different states. The debate threshold for the third round of Democratic presidential debates in September is more rigorous, in that candidates must attract at least 130,000 different individual campaign donors and poll at at least 2% in polls conducted between June and August.


Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.

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