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 GabbardProgressives breathe sigh of relief after Afghan withdrawal Hillicon Valley: US has made progress on cyber but more needed, report says | Democrat urges changes for 'problematic' crypto language in infrastructure bill | Facebook may be forced to unwind Giphy acquisition YouTube rival Rumble strikes deals with Tulsi Gabbard, Glenn Greenwald MORE (D-Hawaii)

Tom SteyerTom SteyerOvernight Energy: 'Eye of fire,' Exxon lobbyist's comments fuel renewed attacks on oil industry | Celebrities push Biden to oppose controversial Minnesota pipeline | More than 75 companies ask Congress to pass clean electricity standard Celebrities push Biden to oppose controversial Minnesota pipeline Six things to watch as California heads for recall election MORE

— Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerLawmakers gear up for spending bill, infrastructure votes Booker: End of police reform negotiations a 'frustrating experience' Sunday shows - All eyes on spending votes MORE (D-N.J.)

— Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisNavarro rips 'dimwit' Trump Jr. on 'The View' for COVID-19 and obesity tweet Do progressives prefer Trump to compromise? Biden, Harris push big lie about Border Patrol MORE (D-Calif.)

— Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDo progressives prefer Trump to compromise? Texas House Republican tests positive for coronavirus in latest breakthrough case In defense of share buybacks MORE (I-Vt.)

— Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenFord to bolster electric vehicle production in multi-billion dollar push Protesters demonstrate outside Manchin's houseboat over opposition to reconciliation package Alabama eyes using pandemic relief funds on prison system MORE 

— Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenIn defense of share buybacks Democrats urge Biden to go all in with agenda in limbo In Washington, the road almost never taken MORE (D-Mass.)

— South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegDo progressives prefer Trump to compromise? DOJ sues to block JetBlue-American Airlines partnership On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Pelosi plows full speed ahead on jam-packed agenda MORE 

Andrew YangAndrew YangYang's new party will be called 'The Forward Party' Andrew Yang planning to launch third party: report Poll: 73 percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Biden in the 2024 primary MORE 

— Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas)

— Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Officials want action on cyberattacks Senate panel advances antitrust bill that eyes Google, Facebook This week: Democrats face mounting headaches 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 PelosiManchin cast doubt on deal this week for .5T spending bill Obama says US 'desperately needs' Biden legislation ahead of key votes Congress shows signs of movement on stalled Biden agenda 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 BennetOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the American Petroleum Institute — PennEast drops pipeline plans despite Supreme Court victory Build Back Better Act must include funding to restore forests, make communities resilient and create jobs Interior reverses Trump, moves BLM headquarters back to DC MORE (D-Colo.) 

— Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve Bullock65 former governors, mayors back bipartisan infrastructure deal Arkansas, New Jersey governors to head National Governors Association Biden 'allies' painting him into a corner MORE (D)

— Former Rep. John DelaneyJohn DelaneyDirect air capture is a crucial bipartisan climate policy Lobbying world Coronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Rep. Rodney Davis 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) Ryan Texas House Republican tests positive for coronavirus in latest breakthrough case Ohio Republican tests positive for breakthrough COVID-19 case The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Government shutdown fears increase as leaders dig in MORE (D-Ohio) 

— Former Rep. Joe Sestak (Pa.)

Marianne WilliamsonMarianne WilliamsonMarianne Williamson calls federal judge's handling of Steven Donziger case 'unconstitutional' Marianne Williamson calls on Biden to drop efforts to extradite Assange Susan Sarandon and Marianne Williamson call for justice in Steven Donziger case 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.