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?

{mosads}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 Gabbard (D-Hawaii)

— Tom Steyer

— Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.)

— Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.)

— Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

— Former Vice President Joe Biden 

— Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)

— South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg 

— Andrew Yang 

— Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas)

— Sen. Amy Klobuchar (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 Pelosi (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 Bennet (D-Colo.) 

— Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D)

— Former Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) 

— Miramar, Fla., Mayor Wayne Messam  

— Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) 

— Former Rep. Joe Sestak (Pa.)

— Marianne Williamson 

Where can I watch the debate? 

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

Tags Amy Klobuchar Andrew Yang Bernie Sanders Cory Booker Democratic debates Elizabeth Warren Joe Biden John Delaney Marianne Williamson Michael Bennet Nancy Pelosi Pete Buttigieg Steve Bullock Tim Ryan Tom Steyer Tulsi Gabbard Wayne Messam

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