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Here’s Your Guide To The Seventh Democratic Primary Debate

The top six Democratic candidates will face off on stage tonight for the seventh and final debate before the first primary votes are cast in the 2020 election.


Six of the top Democratic presidential candidates will face off on stage tonight for the seventh and final debate before the first primary votes are cast in the 2020 election. The debate will be held at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa and co-hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register.

Moderators for the event include CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and Abby Phillip, and the Des Moines Register’s Brianne Pfannenstiel. Viewers can watch the debate live on CNN or stream it on either of the publications’ online platforms beginning at 9 p.m. eastern time. The debate is scheduled to run two hours.

As the Democratic National Committee’s qualifying thresholds have risen, the number of candidates who will appear on stage have shrunk, with only six candidates participating before the Iowa caucuses less than three weeks away.

To earn a podium on stage, candidates must have reached 7 percent support or higher in two polls conducted in any combination of the four first contest states, which include Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. Alternatively, candidates must reach 5 percent or higher in four national surveys or in four polls conducted in the early primary and caucus states to satisfy the polling threshold. In addition to meeting the polling requirements, candidates must have also shown 225,000 unique contributions to their campaigns.

Here’s the lineup of candidates who will appear on stage tonight, from left to right:

  1. Businessman Tom Steyer
  2. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren
  3. Former Vice President Joe Biden
  4. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders
  5. Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg
  6. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar

The crowded Democratic field narrowed down to an even dozen candidates after New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker dropped out on Monday. Self-help author Marianne Williamson ended her campaign on Friday.

Candidates still in the race who will be missing from the platform include former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.

In a Democratic primary marked by its focus on identity politics, the January debate is poised to be the whitest and least diverse yet, with no non-white candidates having qualified for a spot on stage.

What to Watch For

A new poll released from Monmouth University on Monday places former Vice President Joe Biden back on top in Iowa with a comfortable lead ahead of the other candidates.

Biden, according to Monmouth, is now leading the field with 24 percent support, compared to Sanders’ 18 percent. Buttigieg garnered 17 percent, and Warren has dropped to 15 percent.

The recent poll has shifted Real Clear Politics’ latest aggregate to put Biden back in front but by a miniscule margin, illustrating that the race in Iowa could still be anyone’s game. Here’s where the race stands in Iowa according to Real Clear Politics:

  1. Biden: 20.7 percent
  2. Sanders: 20.3 percent
  3. Buttigieg: 18.7 percent
  4. Warren: 16.0 percent
  5. Klobuchar: 7.0 percent
  6. Yang 3.3 percent
  7. Steyer: 2.7 percent

On Monday, Warren accused Sanders of claiming in a December 2018 meeting between the two that a woman could not capture the White House in 2020, after anonymous sources told CNN of Sanders’ alleged comments. Sanders denied the comments and labeled the allegations “ludicrous” in a statement.

The back-and-forth between the senators who have stood together as socialist allies in the race will likely be front-and-center in tonight’s debate as Warren continues to slide in the polls while Sanders begins to surge.

Likely in the offing tonight is a long debate on foreign policy centered on Iran, which fired more than one dozen missiles at two U.S. military bases in Iraq in retaliation for the U.S. execution of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, a terrorist responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans.

Questions on impeachment could also surface as the Senate readies House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s transition of the impeachment articles for a trial to start. Many expect the Senate impeachment trial to begin next week.