2020 primary debate guide: Everything you need to know ahead of the October showdown

2020 primary debate guide: Everything you need to know ahead of the October showdown
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Twelve Democratic primary hopefuls are gearing up to take the stage Tuesday night at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, for the fourth Democratic primary debate, in what is being billed as the largest single debate in a U.S. presidential campaign cycle. 

CNN and The New York Times will host the forum, which will air from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. EDT. 

Who will be there? Who won't? What questions will the candidates be asked? Who will jab at whom? What will we learn?


Keep reading for everything you need to know for the fourth 2020 Democratic primary debate.

Who will be there, and in what order? 

In order of stage placement: 

— Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardHarris faces biggest moment in spotlight yet Ocasio-Cortez slams Tulsi Gabbard for amplifying ballot harvesting video Republicans call on DOJ to investigate Netflix over 'Cuties' film MORE (D-Hawaii)

Tom SteyerTom SteyerDemocrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein 2020 election already most expensive ever TV ads favored Biden 2-1 in past month MORE

— Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDurbin signals he isn't interested in chairing Judiciary Committee Booker 'outs' Cruz as vegan; Cruz jokingly decries 'scurrilous attack' Why Latinos should oppose Barrett confirmation MORE (D-N.J.)

— Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisTrump plays video of Biden, Harris talking about fracking at Pennsylvania rally Overnight Defense: US, Russia closer on nuclear treaty extension after Moscow accepts warhead freeze | Khashoggi's fiancee sues Saudi crown prince | Biden nets hundreds more national security endorsements Democrats make gains in Georgia Senate races: poll MORE (D-Calif.)

— Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOcasio-Cortez rolls out Twitch channel to urge voting Calls grow for Democrats to ramp up spending in Texas The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Tipping point week for Trump, Biden, Congress, voters MORE (I-Vt.)

— Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden holds massive cash advantage over Trump ahead of Election Day Tax records show Trump maintains a Chinese bank account: NYT Trump plays video of Biden, Harris talking about fracking at Pennsylvania rally MORE 

— Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenJustice Department charges Google with illegally maintaining search monopoly Overnight Health Care: Trump takes criticism of Fauci to a new level | GOP Health Committee chairman defends Fauci | Birx confronted Pence about Atlas Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing MORE (D-Mass.)

— South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegLGBTQ voters must show up at the polls, or risk losing progress Buttigieg says it's time to 'turn the page' on Trump administration Sunday shows preview: Coronavirus cases surge in the Midwest; Trump hits campaign trail after COVID-19 MORE 

Andrew YangAndrew YangPelosi spars with CNN's Blitzer over COVID-19 aid: 'You really don't know what you're talking about' The shape of guaranteed income Biden's latest small business outreach is just ... awful MORE 

— Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas)

— Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharDurbin signals he isn't interested in chairing Judiciary Committee Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing MORE (D-Minn.)

— Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro

What are people saying about the stage placement? 

Biden, Sanders and Warren are center stage for the second debate in a row, reflecting their leads in the polls. 

That will give all three another chance to contrast their progressive and centrist ideas, at a time when Warren is posing a growing threat to Biden’s front-runner status while Sanders retains strong support.

What topics could come up?


Tuesday will mark the first time Democratic presidential hopefuls will address the issue of impeachment after Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: McConnell says he would give Trump-backed coronavirus deal a Senate vote | Pelosi, Mnuchin see progress, but no breakthrough | Trump, House lawyers return to court in fight over financial records Progress, but no breakthrough, on coronavirus relief McConnell says he would give Trump-backed coronavirus deal a vote in Senate MORE (D-Calif.) launched a formal impeachment inquiry. Most candidates back impeachment. 

Syria pullout  

While foreign policy does not always take center stage at debates, the candidates are likely going to face questions on Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from northern Syria, which Democrats and Republicans have both criticized. The move is seen by critics as an abandonment of U.S. Kurdish allies that will put their lives at risk. 

Affording higher education  

Student loan and debt forgiveness have been frequently discussed on the campaign trail. Warren and Sanders have both proposed four free years of college education. Biden released his plan proposing two free years of college education last week, and the two progressive senators could see an opening to hit the former vice president on that plan.  

Health care 

Health care is shaping up to be the biggest policy debate in the party. Biden clashed with Warren and Sanders on the issue at the last debate, defending the Affordable Care Act in the face of progressive proposals to scrap it in favor of "Medicare for All." 


Democrats could also address the ongoing opioid crisis in the U.S., which has hit Ohio especially hard. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the state was home to the nation’s highest per capita rate of opioid overdoses in 2017. 


Vaping and e-cigarettes could also come up during the debate, amid a growing number of deaths related to the practice.  

Jobs and the economy 

Trump promised to revamp Ohio’s manufacturing and agricultural sector in 2016. However, Democrats say that the president has not made good on those promises in the state. Expect the Democratic candidates to push their own economic messages at the debate.  

Who won’t be there? 

— Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetDemocrats sense momentum for expanding child tax credit OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats tee up vote on climate-focused energy bill next week | EPA reappoints controversial leader to air quality advisory committee | Coronavirus creates delay in Pentagon research for alternative to 'forever chemicals' Senate Democrats demand White House fire controversial head of public lands agency MORE (D-Colo.) 

— Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockPandemic politics dominate competitive governor's races Judge tosses land management plans after ousting Pendley from role Biden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big MORE (D)

— Former Rep. John DelaneyJohn DelaneyCoronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Rep. Rodney Davis Eurasia Group founder Ian Bremmer says Trump right on China but wrong on WHO; CDC issues new guidance for large gatherings The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas says country needs to rethink what 'policing' means; US cases surpass 2 million with no end to pandemic in sight MORE (D-Md.) 

— Miramar, Fla., Mayor Wayne MessamWayne Martin MessamKey moments in the 2020 Democratic presidential race so far Wayne Messam suspends Democratic presidential campaign 2020 primary debate guide: Everything you need to know ahead of the November forum MORE  

— Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanNow's the time to make 'Social Emotional Learning' a national priority Mourners gather outside Supreme Court after passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lincoln Project hits Trump for criticizing Goodyear, 'an American company' MORE (D-Ohio) 

— Former Rep. Joe Sestak (Pa.)

Marianne WilliamsonMarianne WilliamsonMarianne Williamson discusses speaking at People's Party Convention Fewer people watched opening night of Democratic convention compared to 2016 Marianne Williamson: Democratic convention 'like binge watching a Marriott commercial' MORE 

Where can I watch the debate? 

The debate will air on CNN, CNN International, CNN en Español, in addition to streaming live on CNN.com and NYTimes.com’s homepages. 

 Hill.TV will stream a live 30-minute pre-show, as well as a post-debate show on The Hill’s YouTube channel.