Ten candidates will take the stage Thursday night for the third Democratic presidential debate at Texas Southern University, a public historically black college in Houston.
Unlike the last two rounds of live candidate-sparring, this month’s event will take place just one night, with only 10 candidates qualifying for a podium on stage after the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) participation requirement threshold nearly doubled. To qualify, candidates had to show 130,000 unique donors that included 400 donors from at least 20 states, in addition to garnering a minimum of 2 percent support in at least four pre-approved polls.
Hosted by ABC News in partnership with Univision, a panel of four moderators will run the show, including ABC’s Linsey Davis, George Stephanopoulos, David Muir, and Univision’s Jorge Ramos, meeting the DNC’s criteria for at least one female and one non-white person on the moderating panel.
The debate is scheduled for 8 p.m. EDT and is expected to run three hours. The event will be broadcast on ABC News, KTRK-TV, ABC News Live, and Univision, which will air the debate in Spanish. The debate will also be streamed online through Hulu Live, Roku, Facebook, AppleTV, Amazon Fire, YouTube, Apple News, and Twitter.
A Look at the Lineup
Here’s Thursday’s lineup as the candidates will appear on stage from left to right:
- Amy Klobuchar, U.S. senator from Minnesota
- Cory Booker, U.S. senator from New Jersey
- Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana
- Bernie Sanders, U.S. senator from Vermont
- Joe Biden, former vice president
- Elizabeth Warren, U.S. senator from Massachusetts
- Kamala Harris, U.S. senator from California
- Andrew Yang, tech entrepreneur
- Beto O’Rourke, former U.S. representative from Texas
- Julián Castro, former secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Absent from the debate stage will be several candidates who failed to meet the DNC’s thresholds. Billionaire Tom Steyer met the donor threshold but hit 2 percent support in only three polls, not four, before the September debate deadline. Steyer has since garnered enough support in subsequent polls, qualifying the financier and philanthropist for the next round of primary debates expected to be held mid-October.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, also came close to qualifying, meeting the donor threshold but only scoring enough support in two polls. If Gabbard polls 2 percent or higher in just two more polls in the coming weeks, she will qualify to join the other candidates in the fourth round of primary debates.
Candidates still running who did not come close to qualifying include self-help author Marianne Williamson, who came three polls short but met the donor threshold, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, and former Reps. John Delaney of Maryland and Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania.
Missing the primetime primary debates is a significant blow to campaigns struggling to reach national audiences with their message, so much so that New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand cited missing Thursday’s debate as a reason for dropping out of the race late last month.
Being in the Debates Isn’t Always Beneficial
What happens during the debates can also yield significant consequences, for better or worse, for the candidates participating.
In the last round of debates in July, Sanders and Warren stood out the first night, as the two most progressive candidates taking center stage parried off attacks from moderate candidates, critical of their radical policies. On the second night, Harris’ status as a top-tier candidate, which she developed after a well-received performance in the first round of debates in June, was threatened when Gabbard led attacks on Harris’ record as an aggressive prosecutor in California.
“Sen. Harris said she’s proud of her record as a prosecutor and that she’ll be a prosecutor president, but I’m deeply concerned about this record.” Gabbard said.
She put over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations, and then laughed about it when she was asked if she’d ever smoked marijuana. She blocked evidence that would have freed a man from death row until the courts forced her to do so. She kept people in prison beyond their sentences to use them as cheap labor for the state of California. And she fought to keep cash bail system in place that impacts poor people in the worst kind of way.
[Buy a limited edition “Kamala Is A Cop” T-shirt here.]
Harris saw a sizable drop in support following those attacks but remains a top-five candidate in RealClearPolitics’ latest aggregate of polls.
This week, Harris unveiled a hodgepodge of proposals on criminal justice reform ahead of Thursday night’s debate in anticipation of renewed attacks on her reputation as a scorched-earth prosecutor.
All eyes will also be on Warren and former vice president Joe Biden Thursday night, as the front-runner will face the Massachusetts senator, who has been a consistent second- and third-place contender, for the first time on stage this election cycle.
Biden has made a series of back-to-back gaffes in the past month, bringing renewed doubts about the former vice president’s age and sharpness in the race, at 76 years old, as he looks to take on President Donald Trump next fall. At the first debate in June, Biden appeared frail and forgetful on stage, causing pundits to question his capacity to run in the general election and operate in the Oval Office.
Get the list of Biden’s biggest slip-ups here.