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 BidenSanders to headline Iowa event amid impeachment trial Hillicon Valley: Biden calls for revoking tech legal shield | DHS chief 'fully expects' Russia to try to interfere in 2020 | Smaller companies testify against Big Tech 'monopoly power' Hill.TV's Krystal Ball on Sanders-Warren feud: 'Don't play to the pundits, play to voters' MORE will share the stage with Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders to headline Iowa event amid impeachment trial Hill.TV's Saagar Enjeti rips Sanders over handling of feud with Warren On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Sanders defends vote against USMCA | China sees weakest growth in 29 years | Warren praises IRS move on student loans MORE (I-Vt.), South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegSanders to headline Iowa event amid impeachment trial Hill.TV's Krystal Ball on Sanders-Warren feud: 'Don't play to the pundits, play to voters' Poll: Sanders holds 5-point lead over Buttigieg in New Hampshire MORE and Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisSanders defends vote against USMCA: 'Not a single damn mention' of climate change The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial Overnight Energy: Schumer votes against USMCA, citing climate impact | Republicans offer details on their environmental proposals | Microsoft aims to be carbon negative by 2030 MORE (D-Calif.) on June 27.

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Meanwhile, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSanders to headline Iowa event amid impeachment trial Hill.TV's Saagar Enjeti rips Sanders over handling of feud with Warren On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Sanders defends vote against USMCA | China sees weakest growth in 29 years | Warren praises IRS move on student loans 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 TrumpNational Archives says it altered Trump signs, other messages in Women's March photo Dems plan marathon prep for Senate trial, wary of Trump trying to 'game' the process Democratic lawmaker dismisses GOP lawsuit threat: 'Take your letter and shove it' 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 WilliamsonMarianne Williamson drops out of 2020 race Bill Press: Don't forget about Amy 2020 Democrats: Iran airstrike 'reckless,' 'could cost countless lives' MORE and tech entrepreneur Andrew YangAndrew YangDNC announces new criteria for New Hampshire debate Poll: Sanders holds 5-point lead over Buttigieg in New Hampshire Panel: Obama breaks Andrew Yang's heart 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 DelaneyElizabeth Warren moves 'bigly' to out-trump Trump DNC goof: Bloomberg should be on debate stage Bloomberg decides to skip Nevada caucuses 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 BookerDNC announces new criteria for New Hampshire debate The Hill's Campaign Report: Sanders, Warren feud rattles Democrats The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial 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 BullockBrent Budowsky: Bloomberg should give billion to Democrats Key moments in the 2020 Democratic presidential race so far Kamala Harris dropped out, but let's keep her mental health plan alive 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.