Second US Democratic debate: Schedule, candidates, issues

Everything you need to know as 20 candidates prepare to take the stage over two nights of debate.

Twenty candidates will take the stage over the course of two nights [File: Reuters]
Twenty candidates will take the stage over the course of two nights [File: Reuters]

Washington, DC – The first United States Democratic debate last month offered few surprises, and second is not expected to offer many more.

But with the two leading progressive candidates set to take the stage together for the first time on Tuesday, many Americans hope this month’s debate will help highlight even the most subtle policy differences.

And for those who are not at the top of the polls, this week’s debate may be their last opportunity to break out from the crowd.

As 20 candidates prepare to take the stage on Tuesday and Wednesday, here is what you need to know about the second debate.

1. When and where will the debate take place?

As before, the debate will take place over two nights: Tuesday and Wednesday.

Each night will host 10 candidates and will begin at 8pm EST (00:00 GMT) and will last for two hours.


Candidates will take the stage at the Fox Theatre in downtown Detroit, Michigan, for the debate, which is hosted by CNN.

2. Who are the candidates?

Although there are officially 25 candidates (so far), only 20 will be featured during the debate because the other five did not meet the requirements to take the stage.

On Tuesday, Senators Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, Representative Tim Ryan, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Montana Governor Steve Bullock, former US Representatives Beto O’Rourke and John Delaney, former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and author Marianne Williamson will take the stage.

On Wednesday, Senators Michael Bennet, Cory Booker, Kristen Gillibrand and Kamala Harris, Representative Tulsi Gabbard, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Washington Governor Jay Inslee, former Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro and entrepreneur Andrew Yang will face-off.

3. A new face? And who won’t be on the stage at all?

It will be Bullock’s first appearance on the debate stage. He failed to qualify for the first debate last month. He replaces Representative Eric Swalwell, who dropped out of the presidential race after the first debate.

Five candidates – Representative Seth Moulton, Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam, former US Senator Mike Gravel, former US Representative Joe Sestak and billionaire Tom Steyer – failed to meet the minimum requirements to get on the stage this week.

In order to qualify, the candidates had to receive at least one percent in three or more national polls or early state polls, or they had to raise money from at least 65,000 unique donors.


4. How does it work?

Each candidate will have 60 seconds to answer questions, and will be given 30 seconds for follow-ups and rebuttals.

Unlike the first debate, CNN said there would be no show of hands or one-word, down the line questions.

CNN also said the podium placement was decided based on polling numbers, with the two candidates polling the highest from each night sharing centre-stage.

5. What happened during the first debate?

The first debate offered few major surprises, but over the course of two nights, Americans did see some heated exchanges over healthcare, race and immigration – highlighting some important points of divergence.

Candidates battled over whether to abolish private insurance and shift to a Medicare-for-all system, which is advocated by the more progressive candidates.

Democratic presidential candidates take part in the first night of the Democratic presidential debate [File: Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP]

Although most candidates agree that immigration reform is needed, and family separation and child detention must end, there were disagreements about whether border crossings by migrants should be decriminalised.

During one of more emotional exchanges, Harris challenged Biden’s stance on the bussing of students to desegregate public schools during the 1970s. She shared her own experience of being bussed as a child two decades after the Brown v Board decision to end the separate but equal policy in the US education system.

6. Will this debate be different?

Americans are still not expecting to see major confrontation, but the second debate will host more interesting match-ups, including that between leading progressive candidates Sanders and Warren.

The two candidates will likely try to highlight their points of divergence in order to sway voters to their side, but Sanders has told US media he will not attack Warren because he sees her as an ally.

Many believe that Biden has some ground to gain after a less-than-stellar performance during the second debate. Without Sanders – one of the former vice president’s main critics in the race – on the stage, Biden may be able to do just that. But after the first debate, all eyes will also be how Harris, and other candidates go after and react to the frontrunner.

7. What are the top issues?

Expect to see moderators and candidates bring up the economy, healthcare, immigration and some foreign policy issues like Iran.


Race, which did come up during the first debate, is also expected to be a major issue discussed. President Donald Trump has made several racist remarks over the last month, bringing strong condemnation from candidates and the Democratic Party as a whole.

8. How many people watched the first debate?

More than 18 million people watched the second night of first debate, according to Nielsen ratings, setting a record for a Democratic primary debate. (The first night had more than 15 million viewers.)

Although the number fell short of the all-time primary record set in 2016 when 24 million people tuned in to watch the first debate performance of Trump, it still exceeded many predictions.

9. Will Trump watch?

Trump is expected to watch and will likely tweet during the second debate. Although he was en route to Japan for the G-20 summit during the first debate, he still weighed in, calling it “BORING” on Twitter.


10. When is the next debate?

The next debate will take place on the nights of September 12-13. It will be hosted by ABC News in partnership with Univision in Houston, Texas.

Source: Al Jazeera


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