Joe Biden

1st Dem Debate Lineups Are Out, Setting Up Biden Vs. Sanders

Party officials had promised to weight the drawing with the intention of ensuring that top tier and lagging candidates are spread roughly evenly over the two nights

The Democratic National Committee has announced the 20 candidates that have qualified for the party's first presidential debates later this month, and NBC News released which groups of 10 will be appearing on the two nights.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who has recently dominated national and many early state polls, will face off in the second night against Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who has also been polling near the top of the field. Among the others joinging them are Sen. Kamala Harris of California and Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

The first night will see Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts square off against Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, former Rep. Beto O'Rourke and others. Here is the full list:

June 26: Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, former Housing Secretary Julian Castro, Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

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June 27: Sen. Kamala Harris, former Vice President Joe Biden, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, author Marianne Williamson, Rep. Eric Swalwell of California, entrepreneur Andrew Yang and Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado.

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Democratic Party officials had promised to ensure that top tier and lagging candidates are spread roughly evenly over the two nights. But the second night features more of candidates toward the top of the polls at this stage of the campaign.

The only major candidates out of the two dozen Democratic hopefuls were Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts. They failed to meet the polling or grassroots fundraising measures required to get a debate spot. Two lesser-known candidates, former Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska and Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam, also missed the cutoff, announced Thursday.

Bennet and de Blasio, who recently had been on the bubble, both made the debate based on polling measures.

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Updated May 14, 2019
Credit: Jo Bruni, Emma Barnett, Asher Klein, Dan Macht, Kelly Zegers / NBC;  Photos: Getty Images

The campaign's opening debates in Miami will offer a prime opportunity for many White House hopefuls to reshape a race defined in recent weeks by Biden's domination.

The debate night assignments, released by NBC News Friday, will determine the debate strategies for many campaigns. Candidates will have to decide whether to go after front-runners such as Biden, challenge others in the pack or stand out by remaining above the fray. They must also decide how much to focus on President Donald Trump.

Some candidates have criticized the debate-qualifying rules that the party chairman, Tom Perez, set this year. The polling and fundraising thresholds will remain the same for the July debates over two nights in Detroit .

Bullock's campaign insists he has reached a party benchmark of a minimum 1 percent in at least three polls by approved organizations. But party officials say Bullock is wrongly counting a Washington Post-ABC poll from February.

He said Thursday that he was "certainly disappointed" by the DNC's decision.

"But the greater point really is also that I'm the only one in the field that's actually won in a Trump state, and we need to win back some of the places we've lost," he said on MSNBC.

NBC News is collecting questions from viewers, some of which will be read during the debates. Submit yours here:

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The polling and fundraising marks will double for the third and fourth debates in September and October. Candidates will have to meet both marks instead of one or the other. That means 2 percent in the approved polls and a donor list of at least 130,000 unique contributors.

Hickenlooper questioned some of the rules during a campaign stop Thursday before the DNC announcement, but said candidates have little choice other than to meet them.

"Fighting with the DNC is a little like fighting with the weather," he said. "You can rage against the storm, but you will not have great effect. I think the rules are the rules."

Associated Press writers Brian Slodysko and Matt Volz contributed to this report.

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