The pool of Democratic hopefuls were narrowed down for the first two debate nights based on polling and donation requirements. Still, frontrunners like Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders will be joined by a large number of relatively lesser-known candidates like Michael Bennet, Andrew Yang and Marianne Williamson, all hoping to capture the spotlight and make their case to the American people as to why they should become the next president of the United States.
Mr Biden and Mr Sanders — both consistently polling at the top of the pack — will be front-and-centre at the second night of debates in Miami on Thursday, while Elizabeth Warren and Beto O’Rourke will take centre stage the night prior.
Their placement in the groups were determined by polling averages, according to reports, with experts saying those in the centre have often been provided with the most amount of time to speak.
Here’s everything to look out for at the first round of 2020 Democratic debates.
Night One: Meet the candidates
The following candidates will take part in first night of debates on Wednesday, 26 June:
- Cory Booker - New Jersey senator
- John Delaney - former Maryland congressman
- Elizabeth Warren - Massachusetts senator
- Beto O’Rourke - former Texas congressman
- Bill de Blasio - New York City mayor
- Tim Ryan - Ohio congressman
- Julian Castro - former Housing secretary
- Amy Klobuchar - Minnesota senator
- Tulsi Gabbard - Hawaii congresswoman
- Jay Inslee - Washington governor
All eyes on Warren
Not only will the Massachusetts senator be seen at the centre of the 10-person debate, but she’s the top-polling candidate of all, making the night hers to lose.
The progressive senator has become a favourite along the campaign trail thanks in part to her unending policy proposals, with “I’ve got a plan for that” becoming her unofficial slogan.
However, paired with a group of candidates like Mr O’Rourke — who has failed to rise in the polls after initially starting out as a fundraising juggernaut — and others desperate for break-out moments, Ms Warren could find herself tasked with staying above the fray while appearing like a top contender against Mr Biden or other top candidates appearing the following night.
How to watch
The debates kick off on Wednesday night at 9pm EST (2am on Thursday in the UK) and will be available on NBC News, the media partner for the first round of debates.
Night Two: Meet the candidates
The following candidates will join the second night of debates on Thursday, 27 June:
- Joe Biden - former vice president
- Bernie Sanders - Vermont senator
- Pete Buttigieg - Indiana mayor
- Kamala Harris - California senator
- Kirsten Gillibrand - New York senator
- Marianne Williamson - author
- Eric Swalwell - California congressman
- Andrew Yang - entrepreneur
- John Hickenlooper - former Colorado governor
- Michael Bennet - Colorado senator
A night of too many stars
Critics have called out the Democratic National Committee for announcing it would randomly select candidates to appear at each night in an effort to group higher-polling ones with lesser-known 2020 hopefuls — before pairing many of the highest-polling candidates together on the second night.
The committee said the grouping was sorted randomly, though Mr Biden, Mr Sanders, Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg — four of the five leading candidates in national polls — will all take part in the second debate night.
That will likely make it much more difficult for any of the lesser known candidates to make a splash. Mr Yang, for example, has captured significant support online for his progressive policy proposals and universal income plan — but it remains unclear how that will translate when up against a former top prosecutor like Ms Harris, or a rising Democratic star like Mr Buttigieg.
How to watch
Both debates begin at 9pm EST (2am the following mornings UK time) and are expected to run for two hours. Both will be available to watch on NBC News.