Five takeaways from first Democratic debate lineup

The lineup for the first Democratic presidential debate is set.

After much speculation, NBC announced on Friday that former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTop adviser on Sanders: 'He's always been underestimated' 'The Simpsons' pokes fun at Trump's feud with 'the squad' 'Forever war' slogans short-circuit the scrutiny required of national security choices MORE will share the stage with Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSenate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Top adviser on Sanders: 'He's always been underestimated' 'The Simpsons' pokes fun at Trump's feud with 'the squad' MORE (I-Vt.), South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegTop adviser on Sanders: 'He's always been underestimated' Biden, Sanders lead Trump in hypothetical match-ups: poll The Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes MORE and Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisSenate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Top adviser on Sanders: 'He's always been underestimated' 'The Simpsons' pokes fun at Trump's feud with 'the squad' MORE (D-Calif.) on June 27.

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Meanwhile, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSenate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Top adviser on Sanders: 'He's always been underestimated' 'The Simpsons' pokes fun at Trump's feud with 'the squad' MORE (D-Mass.) will find herself separated from the other top-tier candidates when she takes the stage on June 26.

Here are five takeaways from the debate lineup:

1. Warren stands apart

Warren’s frequent policy rollouts and dogged campaigning has helped propel her to top-tier status in recent weeks, with several surveys showing her either statistically tied with or even overtaking Sanders in key early primary and caucus states.

But when she heads to Miami later this month for the first Democratic presidential debate, she’ll find herself as the only top-tier candidate on stage. The Massachusetts Democrat is slated to debate on June 26, while her chief rivals, Biden and Sanders, won’t appear until June 27.

That arrangement denies Warren a rare opportunity to directly challenge her fellow top-tier contenders, and consequently a chance to further boost her standing in the primary field.

But Warren’s separation from the rest of the top-tier contenders may not be a bad thing for her. That’s because she won’t have to compete with other top-tier candidates for valuable attention, while also having an opportunity to dominate the stage on June 26.

2. Biden and Sanders will have a chance to go at it

Few candidates are as different as Biden and Sanders. One has cast his campaign as a blunt effort to defeat President TrumpDonald John Trump Former US ambassador: 'Denmark is not a big fan of Donald Trump and his politics' Senate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Detroit county sheriff endorses Booker for president MORE and restore the political norms that preceded his administration, while the other has called for democratic socialism and political revolution.

On June 27, they’ll go head-to-head for the first time.

For Sanders, the debate presents an opportunity to broaden his base of support and potentially cut into Biden’s wide lead in the polls. Biden, on the other hand, will have a chance to challenge Sanders’s progressivism and make his case for a more centrist-minded approach to governing.

Sanders hasn’t directly attacked Biden yet. But he has delivered a few veiled swipes at the former vice president. During a speech at the California Democratic Party convention earlier this month, Sanders criticized the idea of a “middle ground” approach to politics, an unmistakable dig at Biden’s reputation as a moderate.

Biden took an implied shot at Sanders this week, saying at a fundraising event in Chicago that while the country is in need of change, “socialism” is not the answer.

3. The second night is stacked

With four of the primary contest’s top five contenders taking the stage on June 27, it’s clear that the second night of the debate carries extra weight.

Biden, Sanders, Buttigieg and Harris will share the stage that night, while a fifth top-tier candidate, Warren, will find herself separated from the pack on June 26.

That lineup raises the question of whether the second night may garner more attention than the first. But it also puts pressure on the leading candidates to stand out.

Unlike Warren, who has the opportunity to command the stage the first night, the four other top-tier candidates will have to jockey for attention. Still, that leaves each of them with a valuable opportunity to show off their debate chops.

4. Lower tier candidates have a couple paths

For candidates who have so far struggled to break out, the debate may be the opportunity they need to turn their fortunes around.

Best-selling author Marianne WilliamsonMarianne WilliamsonWilliamson unveils plan to create Cabinet-level Department of Peace Castro qualifies for next Democratic primary debates Marianne Williamson says she will remove Oval Office portrait of Andrew Jackson if elected MORE and tech entrepreneur Andrew YangAndrew YangThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes Harris to appear in CNN climate town hall after backlash Lawmakers urge DNC to name Asian American debate moderator MORE, the clearest political outsiders in the race, will both share the stage with Biden, Sanders, Buttigieg and Harris on June 27, as will other long shot candidates like former Rep. John DelaneyJohn Kevin DelaneyDelaney shakes up top campaign staff Poll: Nearly 4 in 5 say they will consider candidates' stances on cybersecurity Native American advocates question 2020 Democrats' commitment MORE (D-Md.), who announced his presidential bid nearly two years ago.

A standout performance in the presence of four top-tier candidates could give the lower-tier hopefuls a much-needed boost. But those second-night slots also carry the risk of lesser-known contenders being drowned out by more established candidates.

With Warren being the only breakout candidate on stage on June 26, her opponents may have a better chance to shine. Beyond Warren, however, that stage will still include high-profile Democrats like Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerSenate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Detroit county sheriff endorses Booker for president 'The Simpsons' pokes fun at Trump's feud with 'the squad' MORE (D-N.J.) and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), both of whom have proven adept at commanding crowds.

5. NBC, DNC will face a highwire act

Five hosts will moderate the debates, and they’re sure to face close scrutiny over everything from the questions they ask to their handling of candidate responses.

And with so many candidates on the stage at once, the moderators will be under intense pressure to stick to rigid time limits while ensuring that each contender gets a fair shake.

Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Tom PerezThomas Edward PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE acknowledged the time constraints on Friday, conceding in an interview with MSNBC that the first debate may not offer candidates the chance to do the kind of “deep dives” on policy issues that they may be hoping for.

At the same time, the DNC itself will also find itself on the hook for any successes or failures in the first debate. After facing criticism for its handling of primary debates in 2016, the committee sought to open up the process, setting easy-to-meet requirements for candidates to appear on the debate stage.

Some candidates, however, have already raised concern about the debate.

Biden said this week that the crowded stages mean that candidates won’t be able to address questions with “any real depth.”

And Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockCan Steve Bullock win? Harry Reid: 'Decriminalizing border crossings is not something that should be at the top of the list' Sunday shows - Recession fears dominate MORE, who was among the four candidates who failed to make the debate stage, has complained that the DNC’s decision to omit one of his polls from its qualifying criteria unfairly shut him out of the event.