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Debate viewing guide: Democrats assemble top candidates on one stage

Posted at 2:40 PM, Sep 10, 2019

Thursday marks the third occasion Democratic presidential hopefuls take the stage for a debate, but this instance will be unlike the past two events.

Unlike the first two debates, the lineup of debating candidates has been cut in half from 20 to 10. That means that the top 10 candidates based on polling will be on a single stage for one night.

Thursday's debate will air live at 8 p.m. ET on ABC and Univision. Viewers can also watch Thursday's debate at Thursday's debate will be held in Houston.

The debate is slated to last three hours.

The candidates

Former Vice President Joe Biden
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker
South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg
Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro
California Sen. Kamala Harris
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar
Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren
Entrepreneur Andrew Yang

The candidates on stage qualified by having 130,000 unique donors by Aug. 28, and earning 2 percent in four polls that sample voters nationally or in the states of New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada, or South Carolina.

A large field of candidates did not qualify for Thursday's debate. Candidates who appeared in previous debates such as Rep. Tim Ryan, Mayor Bill DeBlasio, Gov. Steve Bullock, author Marianne Williamson, Sen. Michael Bennet, Rep. John Delaney and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard failed to qualify. The aforementioned candidates have until Oct. 1 to qualify for the next debate in October. Activist Tom Steyer, who has not yet appeared in a debate, has recently qualified for the October debate, meaning the next debate could revert back to a two-night format.


ABC News' David Muir and Linsey Davis will join Univision anchor Jorge Ramos as moderators. Ramos and Muir, at separate events, moderated Democratic Party debates leading up to the 2016 election. Muir also moderated a Republican Party debate in 2016.


The debate will mark the longest one so far in this debate season going a full three hours. Each candidate will be given one minute and 15 seconds for direct responses to questions, and 45 seconds for responses and rebuttals. Candidates will have the opportunity to deliver opening statements, but there will be no closing statements, ABC said.

The top 10 on one stage

Thursday is arguably the night many voters have waited for with the entire top 10 slate of candidates on one stage. For instance, this is the first time that Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden will share a stage. Will Warren take a shot at Biden now that she has the opportunity? We'll find out on Thursday.


In the first two debates, in general, the candidates with higher polling figures got more airtime. Through the first two debates, Biden has led total airtime with almost 39 minutes of talk time. The candidate who appeared in both debates who had the least amount of talk time was Yang with just 11.7 minutes of airtime.

Despite little air time in the previous debates, Yang has seen his polling numbers slowly rise. An ABC News/Washington Post poll released Sunday showed Yang has moved into sixth place, passing others such as Booker and O'Rourke.


An ABC/Washington Post poll released Sunday shows Biden leading with 29 percent, followed by Sanders at 19 percent, Warren at 18 percent, Harris at 7 percent, Buttigieg at 4 percent and Yang at 3 percent.

According to Real Clear Politics, there haven't been any major shifts in support since early July. Following the first debate, Harris saw a sizable bump in her polling, briefly jumping into the No. 2 slot. She has since fallen to fourth, well behind Biden, Sanders and Warren.

Warren and Sanders remain locked into a battle for second.

Gun control could be a major issue

Although gun control has been discussed at the two previous debates, there have been several mass shootings since the Detroit debate in July. Two of those mass shootings took place in Texas -- the same state hosting Thursday's debate.

Like how health care was a central issue at the last debate, it would make sense that gun control will be a key discussion point on Thursday.

Foreign policy

One issue that has also gained more attention since the last debate is the United States' discussion on leaving Afghanistan. President Donald Trump reportedly called off peace negotiations with Taliban rebels in Afghanistan amid a rise in violence in the country the U.S. has occupied since 2001. Yes, this has been an issue for now the fifth election cycle, but still an important one.

Biden's plan versus Warren's plan

We have yet to hear Biden and Warren debate their respective healthcare plans. This will certainly be an interesting juxtaposition of policies if debated. On one hand, Biden has advocated for fortifying Obamacare, which was built around the private insurance model. Whereas Warren has suggested in previous debates to abolish private insurance to go with a strictly government-run system.